Dentists in Scotland voice concerns over expired personal protective equipment
LONDON, UK: Dentists in Scotland have recently voiced their concerns over receiving stocks of free expired personal protective equipment (PPE). Since the Scottish government has failed to provide robust evidence to prove the safety of the out-of-date face masks provided by NHS National Services Scotland (NSS), the British Dental Association (BDA) has urged NHS NSS to make alternative arrangements for supplying PPE to dentists. In the meantime, it has advised dentists against using such masks, since doing so may pose significant risks to their health as well as to the health of their teams and patients.
Dentists across Scotland have been receiving expired face masks, some of which are almost a decade past their use-by date. Much to the surprise of the dentists, NHS NSS has not been able to provide sufficient proof that the revalidated face masks have been robustly assessed and are fit for purpose. For example, the BDA has stated that the copies of the test certificates provided by NHS NSS for the 3M 1863 masks lacked conformity to the necessary requirements, since none of the measures in the certificate achieved a pass assessment. Additionally, the manufacturer of these masks, 3M, stated that it had not assessed the respirator masks since their manufacture and recommended that the use of masks that had passed their expiry date should be avoided.
“Dentists willingly donated their PPE to hospices, pharmacies and hospitals at the onset of this pandemic. In return, the Scottish government has offered us out-of-date masks, and no evidence they are safe to use,” said Dr David McColl, chair of the BDA’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee. “Sadly, our engagement with the authorities has generated more questions than answers,” he continued and added that, until ministers provide tangible proof that the kit offers adequate protection to both staff and patients, no dentist should use it.
The BDA noted that, although general dental practices across Scotland have been using enhanced PPE since the opening of urgent dental care centres in March, using expired or revalidated PPE has become more of a serious issue since dentists started offering aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) on 17 August.
Dental Tribune International previously reported on various studies that have shown that healthcare workers, including dental professionals, are constantly exposed to a high risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, the BDA has stated that no health professional or patient should be placed at an unnecessary risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure during treatment.
Scottish government deems masks safe for use
Scotland’s chief dental officer, Dr Tom Ferris, has addressed this growing anxiety over the safety of the PPE provided to dentists in Scotland and specifically the concern about the use of the 3M 1863 FFP3 respirators for urgent dental procedures that generate high levels of aerosol. In his letter, Ferris assured clinicians delivering dental care that the decision to provide the kit to dentists would not have been made had NHS NSS not been sure about its appropriateness. He noted that the masks had already been widely used across many healthcare settings, including emergency and acute care, as well as urgent dental care.
“NHS NSS have provided separate advice on 2 September which I hope assured you that the FFP3 masks are safe. They have been rigorously tested, proven to be highly effective and they allow safe provision of AGPs to be undertaken within your practice,” the letter read. In conclusion, Ferris stated that he believed that dentists should continue to use the 3M 1863 FFP3 masks and the other PPE provided from central NHS Scotland stocks.