A DENTIST who stored medical equipment in a toilet has sparked a major public health alert - prompting the recall of 22,000 patients who could have been infected with HIV or other viruses.
Health chiefs have launched a public appeal to trace every patient who has been treated by Desmond D’Mello, who allegedly flouted safety controls during his 32-year career.
Mr D’Mello, who ran the Daybrook Dental Practice in Gedling, Nottinghamshire, was suspended in June after a whistleblower secretly filmed him allegedly breaching clinical standards.
His patients are being urged to contact the authorities to be tested for blood-borne viruses including HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
NHS England said Mr D’Mello is not infected with any of the viruses himself. But they said his alleged failure to follow clinical standards, including stashing equipment in the toilet, may have put his patients at “low risk” of infection.
Health bosses apologised for the recall, which is believed to be the biggest in British history.
Dr Doug Black, medical director for NHS England in Nottinghamshire, apologised to the thousands of patients caught up in the scare.
He said: “Our investigation demonstrates that acceptable infection control standards do not appear to have been followed by Mr D’Mello whilst he was treating patients at the former Daybrook Dental Practice.
“Immediate actions were taken to protect current patients once these apparent lapses were identified.
“However, this alleged drop in clinical standards may have put people at a low risk of infection from hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, we are advising all patients who have seen Mr D’Mello to seek further advice on what action they may need to take.”
He added: “We are extremely sorry for the undoubted worry and concern people may feel on hearing this news. I would like to stress again that the risk is low but would encourage anyone affected to contact the advice line.”
There are fears that breaches of safety standards at the clinic could date back decades.
Care Quality Commission inspectors launched a surprise visit on the clinic in July this year, and found the centre did not meet cleanliness and infection control standards.
Mr D’Mello has been suspended for 18 months pending a full investigation into the allegations.
Health officials are now trying to trace all his former clients, but warn that they do not have up to date information for everyone.
The former Daybrook Dental Practice has been under new ownership and Mr D’Mello is no longer associated with the practice.
Two nurses who were also filmed are also being investigated. The other dentist working with him at the time is not under any suspicion.
A dedicated advice line and a walk-in clinic have been set up to give guidance and support to patients who may have been affected.
Patients can contact the helpline on 03330 142479, which is staffed 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.
A community clinic has been set up at the Arnold Health Centre in the Highcroft Medical Centre on the High Street in Arnold, Nottingham, and is open during the same hours.
David Corless-Smith, director of Dental Law Partnership, a law firm specialising in dental negligence, said the recall is “deeply shocking but not altogether surprising”.