Scotland: Dentists need non-expired PPE
02 September 2020
We have serious concerns about some of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provided to dentists in Scotland for aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs).
Dentists across Scotland have reported receiving face masks that date as far back as 2001, and with expiry dates going back to 2012. Over the past two weeks, we have repeatedly sought firm evidence from NHS National Services Scotland (NSS, which is responsible for providing PPE to dentists) that expired masks have been robustly assessed and are safe to use. This has not been provided.
NSS provided us with a copy of the test certificate for the commonly used 3M 1863 masks. However, none of the measures on the certificate achieved a "pass." Moreover, the manufacturer, 3M, has confirmed that they have not assessed these masks since their manufacture and advised that respirator masks should not be used once they have passed their expiry date.
In the absence of firm evidence that these masks are safe to use, we have called on NSS to make alternative arrangements for supplying PPE to dentists. We understand that NSS is currently seeking further evidence from the UK Department of Health and 3M that the masks are safe to use.
Many dentists willingly donated their PPE to hospices, pharmacies and hospitals at the onset of the pandemic. In return, NSS has supplied out-of-date masks, and no strong evidence they are safe to use. That is unacceptable.
We are aware that the Public Dental Service, along with redeployed GDPs, have been using enhanced PPE since the UDCCs opened in March. This was done in good faith, and the letter of comfort from the CNO and previous CMO was accepted in the same manner at the onset of the pandemic. However, the issue of testing expired masks has only come to light since GDPs began offering AGPs to NHS patients requiring urgent care on 17 August, and started receiving equipment that had apparently been revalidated (several times since 2012, in some cases).
Dentists want what is best for their patients. But no health professional or patient should be placed at risk during treatment, and the nature of COVID-19 transmission makes dentistry a potentially high-risk environment. We have called on NSS to urgently provide dentists with PPE that is within its "by use" date to help ensure the safety of dentists, their staff and patients.