Desmond D’Mello removed from the register for serious infection control breaches

Desmond D’Mello removed from the register for serious infection control breaches

19 Aug 2016

A dentist at the centre of one of the largest recalls of patients in NHS history has been removed from the General Dental Council’s (GDC) list of registered dental professionals following a finding of impaired fitness to practise by reason of misconduct. 

The decision to remove Mr Desmond D’Mello from the register was made by the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) on 18 August 2016. 

The PCC found all but one of the 56 allegations proven, following secret filming at the Daybrook Dental practice in Nottingham by a whistle blower which was shown to the three committee members during the hearing.

Mr D’Mello made the decision not to attend, nor have legal representation. Among the charges he faced in relation to his care and treatment of his patients included:

failure to maintain basic standards of infection control, such as wearing the same surgical gloves to examine different patients, not wearing a new surgical mask, not washing hands in between patients and not sterilising dental equipment after each use;

failure to ensure good infection control practices were followed by the staff working with him such as allowing staff to operate computers while wearing surgical gloves and failing to ensure surfaces and equipment were thoroughly cleaned after each patient; and

prescribing antibiotics without a thorough assessment of patients’ needs.

Ms Caroline Surgey, one of Mr D’Mello’s co-workers who worked as a dental nurse at the same practice was also part of the joint hearing. She admitted to all 27 of the allegations.

Ms Surgey is now subject to conditional registration for a period of 12 months, with a review prior to the expiry of the order. This means she will be able to continue to work as a dental nurse, but must accept various conditions and will be under close supervision.  

Commenting on the committee’s decision in respect of Mr D’Mello, Gavin Scott, chair of the PCC said: “His failures to maintain appropriate cross infection controls in his treatment, such as failing to wear or change his gloves and surgical mask, and wiping his hands on his tunic and trousers instead of washing them, enabled him to sustain what was a contemptable circus of gravely hazardous practice which place his patients at a serious risk of infection. 

“Once the risk of exposure to infection had been realised, more than 22,000 patients were offered a recall for blood-tests, of which in excess of 6,000 submitted themselves for testing. Each of these patients had placed their trust in Mr D’Mello’s competence and integrity as a dental professional, a core responsibility of a dental professional being that the risk of infection will be minimised. The Committee can only begin to imagine the impact of the stress and concern which was caused to those patients and their families, when they were informed that they had been exposed to an unwarranted risk of infection.

He added: “Mr D’Mello has abused the trust of his patients in exposing them to serious risk of harm and subjected those patients affected to an appalling and agonising ordeal as they undergo invasive blood-testing. 

“Mr D’Mello’s behaviour is fundamentally incompatible with being a dental professional, and his behaviour is so damaging to public confidence in the dental profession.”

Commenting on the committee’s decision in respect of Ms Surgey, Gavin Scott, chair of the PCC said: “The Committee was of the view that, in her reflections and oral evidence, Ms Surgey has shown significant insight into all aspects of her misconduct. Her remedial steps have been broad in scope, and it is difficult to see what more Ms Surgey could have done to remedy her failings, given the breadth and magnitude of her efforts.

“In respect of the clinical aspects of Ms Surgey’s misconduct, and her failure to raise concerns at the time, the Committee was impressed by Ms Surgey’s efforts to remedy her practice.”

Jonathan Green, Director of Fitness to Practise at the General Dental Council (GDC) said: “The Professional Conduct Committee – an entirely independent decision making panel of the GDC comprising members of the dental profession and the public – has made their decision having considered all of the available evidence, to remove Mr Desmond D’Mello from the register of dental professionals.  

“Patients have a right to expect that dental treatment they receive is safe and does not put their health at risk. Many patients have suffered a great deal of stress and serious concern as a result of Mr D’Mello’s actions and omissions and that is unacceptable.

“At no stage did Mr D’Mello demonstrate an understanding of the severity of the charges, such as by either admitting to any of his failings, or apologise to his patients. This means he will not be able to practice as a dentist in the UK; a decision that is effective immediately. We will also be notifying other dental regulators of the decision using the European Alert Mechanism.

“The GDC’s role is to protect patients, and while removal of someone from the register is not a decision our committee members take lightly and is the ultimate sanction, the committee concluded that it was necessary in this case. 

“These were not just isolated breaches of infection control protocols but a repetitive and continuous failure to observe very basic infection control measures. Mr D’Mello was also found to have issued antibiotics to patients without any diagnosis or checking whether they had any allergies.  

“Ms Surgey – who admitted all of the allegations – is now subject to conditional registration for a period of 12 months, with a review prior to the expiry of the order. This means she will be able to continue to work as a dental nurse, but must accept various conditions and will be under close supervision.  

“She has shown remorse for her actions, and now has a real opportunity to learn from the incident and to demonstrate that she can meet the standards that are expected of every dental professional. The GDC will support her in her efforts to reach our standards and will be closely monitoring her compliance with the conditions. Her progress will be assessed by a GDC committee before the order expires.”

The GDC wishes to ensure that learning from this incident is embedded in Ms Surgey’s practice. We urge dental professionals to remind themselves of the content of the standards for the dental team; particularly to ensure they find out the laws and regulations to treat patients in a hygienic and safe environment and to put patients’ interests first.  

Jonathan Green will be reading out a statement outside the GDC office at 37 Wimpole Street, W1G 8DQ at 16:30 but will not be accepting any questions or interview bids.