Dental staff in primary care environment must all wear face masks if the practice is not COVID-19 secure.
Following the Secretary of State for Health announcement, Public Health England is clarifying the position for primary healthcare providers. It advises that primary health services should ensure, where practicable, all measures are in place so practices are COVID-secure. This includes:
- Using social distancing
- Optimal hand hygiene
- Frequent surface decontamination
- Other measures where appropriate.
Where settings are not COVID-secure, staff in clinical and non-clinical roles should wear a face mask. It explains that this is to prevent the spread of infection from the wearer.
‘The recommendation is for a type l or type ll face mask,’ Public Health England advice says. ‘Worn to prevent the spread of infection from the wearer.
‘If type IIR face masks are more readily available, and there are no supply issues for their use as personal protective equipment, then these can be used as an alternative to type I or type II masks.’
Advice goes on to state that where practices cannot maintain a COVID-secure environment, patients and members of the public should wear face coverings.
Wearing face masks
Recent research shows four in five dentists cannot tolerate wearing an FFP2/FFP3 respirator mask on a long-term basis.
As a result of the BAPD survey, it is calling for a change to respirator mask requirements in dentistry.
The group penned an open letter to Public Health England (PHE) regarding the ‘overly onerous’ PPE that it requires dental teams to wear.
It argues that current requirements along with access troubles mean many practices are unable to offer anything other than basic treatments.
In a recent survey of its members, only around 8% reported being able to communicate effectively with patients when wearing full PPE.
Unworkable and unnecessary
Other findings include:
- 22% reported that they had failed a fit test
- 1.8% reported a ‘normal’ communication ability when wearing full PPE, with 75% saying it ‘reduces communication’ or ‘markedly reduces communication’. And 22% said they cannot communicate effectively
- 45% said they cannot breathe effectively when wearing an AGP-appropriate mask
- 80% said they cannot tolerate wearing FFP3 or FFP2 masks in the long term (six months)
- Around 12% said the science available justifies the use of FFP3/FFP2 masks for AGPs. And 58% said it does not justify their use while 29% said they need more information.
The group points out that both the PHE and the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) no longer classes COVID-19 as a high consequence infectious disease. As a result, it is asking PHE to change the ‘present unworkable and unnecessary high-level PPE guidance’.
The letter states: ‘We feel that a much more appropriate and pragmatic baseline PPE requirement for both AGP and non-AGP procedures to be a FRSM with full-face visor, disposable non-latex gloves and appropriate short-sleeved washable sessional clinical scrubs.’
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