By Simon Wilson, medical negligence expert and senior solicitor at Neil Hudgell Solicitors
DESPITE reassuring words being offered by health officials, 22,000 patients of Nottingham dentist Desmond D’Mello have been left facing an extremely stressful and worrying period ahead as they await tests to see if they have been infected with a blood-borne virus.
In what is believed to be the biggest ever recall in British medical history, the thousands of patients treated by Mr D’Mello, who practised at the Daybrook Dental Surgery on Mansfield Road in Gedling, Nottinghamshire, over a 32-year period, will now need screening for a range of viruses including HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
Mr D’Mello was suspended in June of this year over concerns that he had not been sterilising his equipment properly between patients. His 18-month suspension, subject to a full investigation, came after he was secretly filmed by a whistle-blower over three days, with footage showing ‘multiple failures in infection control’.
The surgery is now under new ownership, and not connected to Mr D’Mello at all.
In our work as medical and dental negligence claims specialists, our team at Neil Hudgell Solicitors handles thousands of cases arising out of the NHS and private healthcare sectors, supporting patients through legal claims after they have suffered from poor care.
And unfortunately, like many other cases we see, this terrible situation appears down to an individual simply not taking the expected level of care when treating patients, and failing to follow basic procedures around patient care.
On the evidence presented so far, it appears simply inexcusable, and a total disregard for patient safety.
Despite health officials claiming people are at a low risk, and stressing Mr D’Mello was clear of any viruses himself, the Daily Mirror says investigators from Public Heath England believe 160 of the 22,000 patients could have been put at serious risk of infection from blood-borne viruses.
That leaves all of the 22,000 currently worrying that they will be one of those 160.
An emergency walk-in centre is already being set up in Nottinghamshire to deal with an expected deluge of worried patients. A hotline, open seven days a week, will also be available to advise and reassure people who were treated at the practice.
However, the only reassurance these people can ultimately get now is a results letter, after their tests, confirming that they are actually clear of all the viruses they are thought to have been put at some risk of having.
That reassurance will no doubt be some time away, and between now and that time, 22,000 people face a wholly unacceptable and unnecessary period of stress and worry.
Quite simply, 22,000 people could have been spared this horrendous stress and worry had a health practitioner simply followed basic procedures.
Hopefully all patients will be given the all clear, but even if they are, it can’t be the end of the matter.
Serious questions must be asked as to how the health of thousands of patients can have been put at risk for so long, and measures must be put in place to prevent it from ever happening again.