The revised guidance on decontamination...

The revised guidance on decontamination...

Chief dental officer for England, Dr Barry Cockcroft talks about the revised guidance on decontamination...

The development and publication of revised guidance on decontamination of used dental instruments in primary dental care has occupied many column inches in the dental press over the last couple of years.

While the quality requirements in the guidance have actually changed very little from the pre-existing ones, there have been concerns from some dentists that the standards set are disproportionately high and put an unnecessary burden on practices.

But if you look at the findings from November’s ‘National Dental Decontamination Survey’, a very different picture emerges. It showed that 70 per cent of practices were, in fact, already meeting the essential quality requirements at the time the guidance was published, and a further 20 per cent only needed to make minor changes to their processes.  

However, it unfortunately also showed that just over 10 per cent had considerable progress to make to meet the requirements.

I have drawn a few conclusions from this. Firstly, it reinforces my view that the vast majority of dental practices and dentists provide a safe, high quality service for their patients. 

Secondly, given that the vast majority of dentists are already meeting the essential quality requirements or are close to achieving them, it confirms that the level at which the essential quality requirements were set, were both reasonable and attainable and that the costs of implementing were not excessive.

So, while it is reassuring that the vast majority of dental practices are already meeting the essential requirements for local decontamination, more still needs to be done to ensure the remaining practices are brought up to standard as soon as possible.  

That’s why we have prepared a self-assessment audit tool. This will allow practices to gauge their levels of compliance with the quality standards described in the guidance and help them identify areas in need of improvement. A CD ROM version of this audit tool is being finalised and will shortly be provided to all practices in England.

 Finally, there has been a lot of concern raised about the registration of primary care dentistry by the Care Quality Commission. The fact that the Survey found that over 10 per cent of practices were a considerable way from reaching essential quality requirements, precisely demonstrates the need for an organisation, such as the CQC, to take responsibility for improving and monitoring the quality of healthcare services.