New SOP guidance and appendix for dentistry

decon peteDecon Pete covers the updated SOP guidance and explains what the changes actually mean for dental practices.

The UK Health Security Agency have issued new standard operating procedures (SOPs), on 24 November, for infection prevention and control for seasonal respiratory infections in health care settings.

The new guidance supersedes the previous UK IPC COVID-19 for maintaining health care services. It doesn’t just cover off the implications of SARS-CoV-2, but all seasonal respiratory infections, including influenza.

The main aim is to ensure that all health care settings, including dentistry, remain safe during the seasonal expected increase in respiratory cases.

What do the changes include?

The main changes over the previous guidance are as follows:

  • Removal of the three COVID-19 specific care pathways (high, medium and low). This is in response to stakeholder feedback and to facilitate local application of the guidance by organisations/employers. The use of, or requirement for, care pathways should be defined locally
  • Addition of a section on the criteria to be applied within the ‘hierarchy of controls’ to further support organisations/services with maximum workplace risk mitigation
  • Recommendation for universal use of face masks for staff and face masks/coverings for all patients/visitors to remain as an IPC measure within health and care settings over the winter period. This is likely to remain until at least March/April 2022
  • Physical distancing should be at least one metre, Increasing whenever feasible to two metres across all health and care settings
  • Recommendation that physical distancing should remain at two metres where patients with suspected or confirmed respiratory infection are cared for or managed
  • Recommendation that screening, triaging and testing for SARS-CoV-2 continues over the winter period. Testing for other respiratory pathogens will depend on the health and care setting according to local/country-specific testing strategies/frameworks and data.

New pathways

Along with the newly published SOPs we have also seen the IPC dental appendix have an update. Also on the 24 November.

There are now two specific clinical pathways that patients can take within the practice. Non-respiratory pathway and respiratory pathway.

Each patient must go through a triage screening process to determine which pathway they are to take.

For patients whom are on the non-respiratory pathway face coverings are accepted, in place of the surgical Type II or Type IIR. Patients can sit in the waiting room providing you keep a minimum distance of one metre. Ideally observe two metres if space permits.

For patients whom are on the respiratory pathway the following precautions need observing:

  • Reschedule the appointment if possible until the end of the isolation or a negative test result
  • Provide surgical masks type II or type IIR in place of a universal face covering
  • Isolate patients from those patients on the non-respiratory pathway
  • Carry out any AGP procedures at the end of the day or clinical session to minimise the impact of the one hour fallow time.

Wearing PPE

When using the surgical face mask, type II or type IIR its important to remember:

  • It fits well covering both nose and mouth
  • Do not allow it to dangle around the neck after or between each use
  • Do not touch it once put on
  • Change it when they become moist or damaged
  • Dispose of as single use
  • Wear it once and then discard as healthcare (clinical) waste. Perform hand hygiene after disposal.

It’s important that we follow the guidance to ensure that we protect ourselves and patients and also keep the virus under control.

You can find the new dental appendix here:

If you need any help or assistance please do not hesitate to get in tough with me at or email [email protected].

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