The stand-off between Scottish dentists and the Scottish Government/NSS relating to satisfactory FFP3 provision for AGPs, demonstrates the regard which the NSS/CDO have towards the safety of our staff and patients, in addition to the lack of urgency given to kick-starting the provision of Scotland’s routine NHS General Dental Services.
The statement made by Mr Paul Cushley (Director of Dentistry) and Mr Gordon Beattie (Director of National Procurement) on 02/09/2020 regarding 3M out of date masks is akin to either “using endodontic files more than once is perfectly safe,” or “not having a washer disinfector in a dental practice is perfectly safe” or using out of date materials on dental patients is perfectly safe.” These are statements which we may expect to be made in a deliberate effort to be contentious, although not from a dental professional. Should Mr Cushley be prepared to answer the following questions honestly, he may arrive at the same sceptical conclusions as the majority of the dental community:
- Are in date masks more reliable than out of masks?
- Does testing 5-10% of 3M 1863 masks provide evidence which allows Mr Cushley to state with such a broad brush that we “can be assured those products have passed stringent tests.”
- Have several hundred healthcare workers lost their lives at the hands of SARS-CoV-2?
- Was there any purpose in appointing Inspec, given that they did not award a single ‘pass’ to any of the 3 clauses chosen by NSS from the 17 available to be revalidated?
- In consideration of the O.N.S. assertion that dental professionals are most at risk in terms of exposures to infective agents, are we correct to take our own view on the safety of out of date masks?
- Should dentists “purchase their own alternatives” for NHS work and are other NHS staff being asked to purchase PPE?
- Why has it taken until “recently’ for NSS/SG to secure “a sustainable long-term Scottish supply pipeline for FFP3 masks?” Indeed, what precluded earlier sourcing? Also, in view of the levels of AGP inactivity in dental practice and the “average of around 800 FFP3 respirators for each practice,” what prompted the abandonment of such a huge stockpile?
- Should we disregard the many reports of straps failing on 3M 1863 masks?
The tone of the correspondence is quite derisory in several instances but particularly in respect of the inference that ‘it’s good enough for everybody else so it’s good enough for you.’ The counter to this might be that the Scottish Government and CDO set Scottish Dentists apart from their NHS colleagues regarding dental AGP risks, to the extent of forced closures. This implies that the safety considerations cannot be assimilated. Secondary to this was the inadequate sourcing of in date PPE by SG/NSS from March 2020.
Finally, it might be inferred from recent NSS communications that it is facile on one hand to genuinely apply “stringent” to ventilation requirements (which are far less significant than qualitative PPE), whilst ‘not so stringent’ has been glued to the PPE itself. This is compounded when those advising are not themselves the perpetrators or subjects of AGPs. On this occasion we feel we must decline your advice on FFP3 respirators.