New thinking on dental decontamination rules

The British Dental Association (BDA) has applauded an announcement that primary care dentists in Scotland will not be required to use vacuum sterilisers because there is a lack of evidence that they would increase patient safety.

The statement was made by the Scottish Health Technologies Group (SHTG) following a request by the chief dental officer (Scotland) Dr Margie Taylor, chair of the Scottish Dental Decontamination Group, to consider the issue.

The decision has been taken following an assessment of the current literature by SHTG, which determined that as a change would not increase patient safety its cost would not be justified.

The statement by SHTG means that non-vacuum phase autoclaves can continue to be used in primary care settings.

The announcement follows an earlier advice statement from SHTG which determined there is insufficient evidence to support the introduction of the wrapping of dental instruments after sterilisation in a non-vacuum autoclave and prior to use.

It also comes on the back of a November 2010 policy decision that, following validation on installation, the testing, maintenance and revalidation of equipment in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions will allow practitioners to meet their obligations to provide proper, sufficient and safe decontamination standards.

Dr Robert Kinloch, chair of the BDA’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said: ‘The BDA applauds this commonsense decision, which has been taken on the basis of available evidence.

‘Patient safety is dentists’ paramount concern. Where there is no evidence that a change would improve patient safety, as has been determined is the case here, it would clearly be wrong to require NHS resources to be spent altering existing working practices. We have explained our support for the principle that regulation should be proportionate and are pleased to see that it has been understood and applied in the making of this decision.’

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