Guidance update from Jenny Nixon, Business Development Director at Dentisan
As the world continues to move back towards pre-pandemic ways of working, new guidance has been introduced for healthcare settings, including for dental practices in England.
The reviewed measures cover the next steps in infection prevention and control (also known as IPC) and provide clarity on current best practice to ensure the safety of staff and patients. Here’s a summary of your need-to-know points on the latest changes.
The requirement for the fallow time between patients following aerosol generating procedures was removed in earlier guidance, but it’s still recommended to allow for a minimum ventilation level to safeguard patients and staff. This advice outlines a level of 6 air changes per hour for general healthcare settings, to reduce the risk of infection transmission.
The latest guidance removes the universal need for patient mask-wearing within primary healthcare settings. However, the advice does stipulate that facemasks should be worn in settings where a known or suspected cluster transmission of SARS-CoV-2 or a new SARS-CoV-2 VOC emerges. Ultimately, a local risk assessment is the best approach to ensure you are following the right protocol.
A new classification for COVID-19
In the latest guidance, COVID-19 or SARS-Cov2 has been classified as a ‘high consequence infectious disease.’ To put this into context, it places the virus within a group of diseases, including monkeypox, meaning it can be screened for with appropriate questions. This makes screening before patient attendance a necessity, along with advising patients to notify the practice of any indication of respiratory symptoms (or a monkeypox rash) before their appointment. If they are presenting signs of infection or have a known infection, non-urgent treatment should be deferred until the patient recovers.
Treating patients with respiratory illnesses
In the case of clinically urgent cases, treatments may need to still take place, even if the patient has respiratory symptoms or has submitted a positive screening questionnaire. The first step in these situations is to perform a local risk assessment and take extra precautions if needed. These can include:
- Wearing facemasks: the patient and staff should wear a face mask in general areas of practice.
- Social distancing: of at least 1m between the high-risk patient, other patients, and staff.
- Limiting exposure in general areas: by booking appointments at the beginning or end of the session to separate the infectious patient.
- Elevation of PPE: clinical staff involved with patient care should wear an FFP3 mask and full gown.
To read the latest communication from NHS England in full, visit www.england.nhs.uk.