Britain’s National Health Service is going to start the largest ever patient recall today, after the discovery of a dentist who hadn’t cleaned his instruments properly in 32 years, exposing thousands to blood-borne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis-C.
The Nottingham dentist treated some 22,000 patients at his practice since 1982, and the sheer scale of the case has caused significant problems for the NHS, which was unable to inform all the patients by letter, and has been forced to make a public appeal for people to come forward. Unable to cope with the volume of people anticipated to come forwards with concerns, the local health authority has set up a dedicated clinic and phone-line to deal with testing the former patients for diseases like HIV, Hepatitis-B and Hepatitis-C.
Although the NHS has stated the dentist himself does not have HIV or any other blood-borne disease, his persistent failure to properly sterilise his instruments over his career means infections could have been passed between patients unknowingly. He was suspended from practise in June this year after a whistle-blower leaked footage of his procedures, and an investigation by “horrified” officials uncovered three decades of mistakes, reports The Mirror.
After a clinical risk assessment, Public Health England decided that 22,000 patients were at risk and had to be screened as a precautionary measure, but 160 were at “serious risk”. The serious risk patients had been covertly filmed during procedures by the whistle-blower and were observed being given substandard care.
This is not the first scandal over poor quality of care and low standards that has embroiled Britain’s nationalised health service in recent years. A 2013 enquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust found a culture focussed more on preserving itself than the lives of its patients, which tolerated poor standards and ignored negative reporting from its own wards. Although the number of unnecessary deaths caused by this culture of neglect is unknown for certain, and was removed from the final report, it is thought to be between 400 and 1,200 dead.
After revelations that vulnerable patients were left lying in their own urine and faeces, that nurses forgot to feed and water patients, and patients were given the wrong medication, the government announced the trust would be dissolved, and its responsibilities given to neighbouring trusts.