1 December 2009
Q. Could a male hygienist be vulnerable to accusations of a sexual nature from females unless there is a dental nurse or a chaperone present?
The simple answer to the question is ‘yes', although the need for another person present is not necessarily related to the chaperone issue. As a male or female DCP you do not know the sexuality of the patient sitting in the chair, and therefore there is perhaps as much as a problem for a female hygienist or therapist as there is for a male. Thankfully allegations of a sexual nature are extremely rare, but are certainly not unknown.
It is much more likely that a clinician could find themselves dealing with a medical emergency whilst treating a patient. Medical emergencies can arise irrespective of gender, time or place - and all too often occur just at the wrong moment. In that situation a clinician working alone is faced with an impossible dilemma - do you provide emergency CPR or do you call for help? You certainly will not be in a position to do both, particularly if the surgery is some way from the reception area, as is often the case for hygienists and therapists. One can imagine how critical a coroner might be of the practice and in particular the DCP who was working alone if the patient died in those situations.
It is for this reason that the General Dental Council guidance Principles of Dental Team Working (paragraphs 3.7 and 3.8) make it clear that clinicians should only work alone in exceptional circumstances and that there should be somebody else present, preferably a registered team member who is trained to deal with emergency medical procedures. Put more succinctly, the GDC's guidance makes it clear that all clinicians without exception should work alongside a dental nurse when treating patients.