How to remain compliant during the pandemic
Fran Sorodoc provides five tips on how to remain compliant during the pandemic.
COVID-19 has brought new challenges to dentistry, never before experienced. It has also shown the resilience of the profession by demonstrating that, with teamwork and a little bit of elbow grease, we can set our minds to do anything.
There is a Bruce Lee quote that always resonates with me: ‘Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.’ So how can we become like water and take the shape of our new COVID-19-compliant practices?
Here are my top tips on overcoming common blunders that occur when adapting to the ever-changing landscape.
Dentistry is a fast-paced environment, so keeping up with practice meetings can seem like a full-time job on its own. While it may seem like a good idea to skip a practice meeting (or five), this can quickly snowball.
Frequent things fed back to me by practice managers are that they lack the time. That their large team does not allow for proper social distancing. Or, they feel it unnecessary because everyone is well versed in the practice ethos and policies.
However, some practices may not realise that meetings aren’t just for arguing about who has stolen the hand-piece from surgery two. They are for enriching your team with invaluable information to continuously improve your practice.
This shows inspectors that you are well-led (key lines of enquiry, my dear friends). It also gives your team the time to speak and express any concerns. This avoids any bubbling up resentment that could cause breakdowns in relationships.
A well-led practice
A few ways to keep your practice well-led and your employees happy are by incorporating the following:
- Have at least 90 minutes a month allocated in your diary specifically for practice meetings. Do not allow rescheduling
- Have remote practice meetings if social distancing is a concern. Technology such as Zoom and Teams makes this easier than ever before
- Dedicate time for your team to be able to discuss concerns and ideas
- Have specific agenda points for discussing actions and learning arising from any safety alerts, surveys, audits, risk assessments, patient comments and/or complaints.
Icomply remains two steps ahead by offering its members automatically scheduled monthly meetings and agenda templates. This makes it hard to forget to pass along any critical information. Our Quality Practice Scheme members benefit even further by receiving quarterly monitoring reports on their compliance status. This would also highlight if practice meetings are habitually rescheduled.
Around 40% of practices I have inspected have overdue maintenance for their equipment. One practice even told me that their engineers were booked months in advance and there was nothing they could do. This was unsettling because they did not try to find another company.
All equipment must be suitable and safe for the intended use. It should be correctly maintained, and, in certain circumstances, inspected to ensure this remains the case. These regulations were put in place for genuine safety reasons. Improperly maintained equipment could cause injuries or even be life-threatening.
For example, autoclaves are pressure vessels, meaning they apply extreme amounts of heat and pressure. If an autoclave is no longer able to safely withstand these pressures, it could result in an explosion with catastrophic consequences. I cannot imagine anyone would want to report under Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 to the Health and Safety Executive why their nurse had been seriously injured due to the above happening.
So, if your engineer has just told you that they have zero availability for the coming months, there is only one clear solution. Look for an alternative engineer to provide you with this mandatory maintenance.
While in employment as an area manager, keeping myself organised with all the engineer due dates proved difficult. Icomply did the thinking for me by implementing automated ‘to dos’, reminding me as far as two months in advance. This gave me a foolproof way to get the maintenance completed within the necessary time frame.
Mandatory training is frequently put on the back burner by practices. Incorrect justifications range from social distancing concerns to financial apprehensions.
One practice manager received resistance from the principal when she put forward her idea of having two separate basic life support training sessions in order to address social distancing concerns. Obviously, this would be at an increased cost to the practice. However as General Dental Council (GDC) registrants are required to have hands-on training at least once annually the practice needed to find a way to make this work.
CODE contacted the Resuscitation Council UK (Resus Council) to confirm that training can occur remotely with little or no instructor involvement if a well-designed and validated self-instructional programme is used alongside hands-on practice (see the full article via: bit.ly/3t29zB5).
Some training providers have effectively followed this through by dropping off equipment to practices and requesting recorded videos of staff reporting to simulated emergencies as evidence of a candidate’s compliance with training requirements. Now, with even remote cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) learning readily available, practices need not worry about following behind on mandatory training.
Overdue appraisals and CPD
Appraisals and continuing professional development (CPD) play a key part in motivating employees to not only achieve greater success and continuously improve their performances but also to fulfil regulatory requirements.
I spoke to one practice that delayed appraisals by almost two years and allowed their GDC registrants to fall behind on their CPD training. After seeing my reaction, they elaborated that their furloughed team members could not be called in and with the extra workload. They simply did not have the time.
CODE research has confirmed that inspectors take a very dim view of practices that do not meet the requirements of an annual appraisal. I recommend becoming like water and adapting to the tools we have: video conferencing and online learning.
Get those furloughed employees on camera for that overdue appraisal. Or, if it is a lack of time that you are struggling with, keep yourself organised and one step ahead of appraisals by keeping track of your GDC registrant’s personal development plans (PDPs) and CPD logs. This way, the preparation work for the appraisal is half done all while checking to make sure that they are keeping up to date with CPD.
Icomply’s calendar reminds you of appraisals automatically, guaranteeing that it will not be forgotten. To simplify things even more, Isopharm’s practice reporting allows you to monitor your team’s CPD logs and PDPs, even informing you if their PDP is properly completed and whether they are staying up-to-date with it.
Outdated COVID-19 SOPs
I bet some of you have forgotten about the COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) gathering dust in your office. You must update these as the guidance changes, for example the self-isolation protocols have changed three times since March 2020, but have your procedures?
While you and I are aware of the new 10-day self-isolation, not everyone will. Having it clearly laid out in black and white prevents anyone in your practice mistakenly disobeying government laws.
With the ever-changing guidelines as new research comes to light, it is important to set aside some time to focus on your SOPs and keep yourself informed.
With the Care Quality Commission’s new Transitional Management Approach (TMA), inspectors are now remotely inspecting practices, with COVID-19 SOPs being one of the focus points.
Icomply members have the reassurance of using the recommended six-monthly COVID audit. This helps you pinpoint areas that you may need to action. Not only that, when guidance changes, we send out articles to our members to help keep them ahead of their compliance.
Even with the additional work needed to remain compliant and maintaining your work relationships, you can become the water in the river, adapting to the ever-changing situation, chipping away at that mountain to bring it back down to a mole hill.
You will be pleased to see that it gets easier once you have done the groundwork. With Icomply and Isopharm as a helping hand, even that mole hill can disappear. Stay informed, stay compliant, and most importantly, stay safe.