A member came to us with questions around appropriate staffing arrangements and patient safety.

The scene

A DDU member called the advice line with a query about limited staffing arrangements for weekend working.

The member was a hygienist, and had been asked to work on a weekend alongside a dental nurse but with no dentist on the premises. As well as wanting to know if this would be an adequate number and level of staff to treat patients safely and appropriately, the member was particularly concerned about whether they would be able to administer prescription only medicines (POMs) in an emergency in the absence of a dentist on the premises.

DDU advice

The DDU's dento-legal adviser reassured the hygienist member that there was no requirement to have a registered dentist in the practice, but that there were still certain requirements they needed to follow.

The hygienist was advised that they must not work alone, as outlined in Standard 6.2 of Standards for the dental team, which states that GDC registrants 'should work with another appropriately trained member of the dental team at all times.' However, the DDU adviser said that as long as the dental nurse was appropriately trained, including basic life support, the GDC's requirements for safe working would be satisfied.

As to POMs, the dento-legal adviser pointed out that although the hygienist was normally only able to administer these in very specific circumstances (via a patient specific direction from a dentist) or a patient group direction, they would be exempt from the legal restrictions on prescribing POMs in an emergency situation.

This page was correct at publication on 03/12/2018. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.