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This blog discusses how treatment from a Nottinghamshire dentist has prompted thousands of patients to be recalled for testing.
By Ben Lees
Many of us have seen the recent coverage relating to the allegations that substandard dental treatment may have been provided to over 22,000 patients of a Nottinghamshire dentist, Dr Desmond D’Mello.
Claims against Dr D’Mello highlight the severe consequences of flouting basic hygiene standards and suggests that the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) role as inspector may need additional support and expertise to combat substandard dental treatment.
Amidst claims that D’Mello kept medical equipment in the staff toilet and failed to wash his hands or change his gloves between appointments with patients, the NHS have launched a public appeal to trace his patients to test them for Hepatitis B and C and HIV. Additionally, Nottinghamshire police have opened an investigation into the cause of a young woman’s tragic death in August 2013.
Leeds University graduate, Amy Duffield, is reported to have died from viral acute myocarditis within the same month she was treated by D’Mello. Whilst there is no report of conclusive evidence that her dental treatment caused her death, it is worrying to think a young woman’s dental treatment may have played a part and I will be monitoring the findings closely.
The CQC is the health service watchdog on standards and it is the body responsible for inspecting practices regularly. In November 2013, D’Mello’s dental surgery was given a clean bill of health. However, on a subsequent visit in July, after the investigations into D’Mello started, the CQC found that the practice failed to meet standards on cleanliness and infection control, the safety and suitability of equipment and monitoring of quality of service.
This does raise concerns about the CQC’s current inspection regime. The investigation into Dr D’Mello was commenced as a result of a whistleblower producing covertly filmed footage from June this year. Whilst it does not provide evidence to suggest that substandard dental treatment has been provided by D’Mello during the whole of his 32-year career, it highlights that this is a real possibility. As a result, it calls into question the effectiveness of practice inspections and there have been calls for more independent dental experts to be involved to ensure minimum standards are being met.
However, the most pressing issue will be that patients of D’Mello seek advice on whether they have been put at risk and whether they need treatment. Sadly, we at the Dental Negligence Team are all too aware of the consequences when substandard dental treatment remains undetected for a prolonged period.
The recent publicity of D’Mello’s practice will hopefully encourage patients to be vigilant when having treatment, even if they have been attending their practitioner for over 10, 20 or 30 years.
If you are concerned about dental treatment you have received, you should seek medical advice from a dental specialist and feel free to contact a member of the Dental Negligence Team for specialist legal advice.