Ensure holiday coverage in dental practice

DENTISTS are reminded to have measures in place to cope with staff absences during the holiday season.

MDDUS is advising practices to always have available at least two practice staff members who can fulfil a designated role in an emergency. Absence of clinical support staff can have a significant impact, particularly in practices which employ a small team.

Dentists "soldiering on" on a single-handed basis should be aware that the provision of dental treatment without assistance is not only impractical and potentially hazardous, but is also likely to be in breach of GDC guidance.

GDC guidance states that a second person who is trained to deal with medical emergencies should be present throughout treatment, while a third person who can fulfil a designated role in an emergency should be on hand in the practice.

MDDUS dental adviser Doug Hamilton says: "Failure to comply with these obligations can be justifiable in exceptional and suitably risk-assessed circumstances. However, it is clear that routinely working without a chaperone may compromise patient safety, leave the dentist open to accusations of misconduct and contravene the GDC’s Principles of Dental Team Working.

"The simplest way to manage this problem is to re-assign an existing staff member from administrative to clinical duties. This option is convenient, but would only be permissible if the staff member was already registered, had received appropriate immunisation and had remained up-to-date with required CPD before re-entering the clinical setting."

If this is not possible, then another approach might be to hire fully trained nurses on a temporary basis from an agency.

"This can prove expensive," says Hamilton. "Furthermore, practices who expect to require cover for more than 12 weeks should be aware that, after this period, the agency nurse may be entitled to equality with employees who are carrying out similar duties in terms of pay, hours and holidays."

Practice owners may consider the possibility of offering a temporary employment opportunity to someone who has no previous experience in this field, but there are a number of restrictions to bear in mind.

"This might appear to be a mutually beneficial arrangement," adds Hamilton. "However, the GDC’s definition of an ‘in-training’ nurse is very restrictive. In order to fulfil the required criteria, these employees must currently be on a training course which will lead to registration or be employed while awaiting the commencement of a placement on a GDC-approved course.

"Furthermore, they must have completed an induction and work under the supervision of a designated registrant who will be ultimately responsible for any adverse events involving the trainee. Otherwise, the prospective nurse cannot commence chair-side duties."

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