Dental professionals infected with bloodbourne viruses such as HIV will now be allowed to perform a wider range of treatments according to revised categorisations from Public Health England (PHE).
The new advice from the United Kingdom Advisory Panel for Healthcare Workers Infected with Bloodborne Viruses (UKAP) and PHE has extended its ‘non-exposure prone procedures’ (non-EPPs) to include treatment in dentate patients.
Non-EPPs include procedures in which the healthcare worker’s (HCW) hand and fingertips are visible and outside of the body at all times, and do not require sharp instruments during internal examinations that could injure the HCW’s hand.
Examples of non-EPPs include incisions of external abscesses, intravenous sedation, and taking impressions.
The guidance categorises EPPs and non-EPPs based on the risk of ‘bleed-back’, i.e. the risk of the HCW’s blood contaminating the patient’s open tissues.
Affected HCWs were previously banned from practising in the UK. This was lifted in 2014 and replaced with registration requirements and regular health checks.
“A huge step forward”
Kevin Lewis, Dental Director at Dental protection said: “Dental Protection has actively lobbied on this issue for over ten years on behalf of members and the wider profession. We know that affected oral healthcare professionals are keen to continue in their chosen profession and the combination of the confidential register and new categorisation means that the worry of a sudden loss of income will no longer compound worries about their own health, to anything like the same extent.
“The ability of oral healthcare professionals to continue with a dental career in the event that they are diagnosed as HIV-positive is a huge step forward and a welcome example of science and the evidence-base overcoming ill-informed concerns and prejudices.
“Once on the Department of Health register, and as long as medical supervision is followed and standard infection control precautions are taken, the majority of normal dental procedures pose no risk of transmission of bloodborne viruses from an infected clinician to a patient.
“We will continue to work with the Department and other agencies to monitor the evidence base that gave them the confidence to bring about a change. As an international organisation, we would like to see other nations, who look to the UK for a lead, align their own policies on this subject.”
Further guidance from Public Health England can be found here.