Coronavirus: dento-legal update

The position regarding COVID-19 is changing very rapidly. DDU advice is to stay up to date with guidance from relevant government departments and agencies.

Dental professionals are understandably concerned about ensuring they keep themselves and patients safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We would advise members to carefully consider all of the guidance currently available from authoritative sources such as government departments or agencies and make a risk-assessed decision as to how to proceed.

We are not an insurance company and therefore we have no small print or exclusions. The DDU never seeks to interfere in clinical decisions of members caring for patients and so, however they interpret the guidance, our members can look to us for our advice and support in the usual way.

You can see the latest government departments' advice below, along with a statement from the GDC about how it will approach regulation during the outbreak.

It includes information on which patients can be treated, along with the advice to give patients who should not be treated. There is also guidance about appropriate infection control measures to take.

Keeping up to date

The advice can change frequently so it is important for dental professionals to keep up to date with the latest information. We suggest you check the relevant websites regularly. You will need to ensure you immediately react to and follow changing guidance.

In addition, the DDU suggests:

  • you keep a log of when you checked the COVID-19 advice so you can demonstrate what you have done to stay up to date
  • each practice or department appoints a lead person with responsibility for checking the relevant advice regularly and disseminating it to all concerned
  • make sure you view documents from the website rather than relying on a saved copy, to make sure you are working from the most up-to-date guidance.

Routine appointments

Advice from Chief Dental Officers (CDO) in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to dental professionals in March 2020 included:

  • stop all routine dentistry
  • stop all aerosol generating procedures in general practice
  • advise and reassure patients with a dental problem by phone where possible, including offering remote prescriptions where appropriate
  • dental team members who are pregnant or otherwise immunosuppressed should not provide or assist in the direct care or assessment of patients
  • if assessment in person is required, use robust standard PPE procedures, only see patients who are asymptomatic and try to keep face to face assessments and (non AGP) dental treatment to a minimum and only to meet urgent treatment need
  • when urgent dental care facilities are put in place, it is important your practice receives clear information about the referral process and the procedure is followed correctly
  • it is also important to give clear information to any patient you are referring so they know what to expect - for example, if there is a second triage, explain this to the patient and inform them how to obtain further advice if the referral is not accepted.

Dental professionals are also advised to continue to use robust infection control procedures and display posters about COVID-19.

Regulation

Emergency powers to re-register dental professionals in an emergency are not currently being proposed, the GDC explains.

The GDC says its approach to regulation during the current outbreak is based on the following principles.

  • Minimising the burden of time and attention we impose on registrants.
  • Maximising the flexibility of registrants to manage their professional activities in response to the challenges of COVID-19.

With this in mind the GDC is postponing almost all fitness to practise hearings, except a small number where there is an immediate perceived risk to patient safety. Hearings will be run remotely where possible.

With many CPD events being cancelled, the regulator reminds dental professionals it is acceptable to log zero hours of CPD for this year, if 10 or more hours have been completed in the previous year. The GDC will also look sympathetically on those with a CPD shortfall who are submitting a declaration this year.

Dental students

The GDC acknowledges the disruption to teaching and assessment but is working with education providers to ensure a smooth transition into practice. A joint statement setting out the approach has now been published on the GDC website

Useful resources

Links to the some of the relevant websites across the four nations are available below.

GDC guidance

GDC: COVID-19 - latest guidance

Infection prevention and control recommendations

COVID-19: Guidance for the remobilisation of services within health and care settings

COVID-19: Infection prevention and control dental appendix

FGDP: Implications of COVID-19 for the safe management of general dental practice

COVID-19 guidance for England

NHS England's COVID-19 advice

COVID-19 guidance for Scotland

Scottish dental

COVID-19 guidance for Wales

The Welsh government's advice on COVID-19

COVID-19 guidance for Northern Ireland

HSC Business Services Organisation - key dental advice

Need more advice? See all of our coronavirus dento-legal guidance.

This page was correct at publication on 06/10/2020. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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