DENTAL surgeries have been told to remove magazines and toys from their waiting rooms

Last Updated: 28 October 2009 10:04 AM
Source: Edinburgh Evening News

DENTAL surgeries have been told to remove magazines and toys from their waiting rooms to help halt the spread of swine flu.
The Evening News has discovered every NHS practice has been sent the new guidance as health chiefs battle to control the spread of the H1N1 virus.

The move has been met with a mixed reaction, with some branding it a step too far – arguing that there are other more dangerous risks of swine flu spreading – while others insist it is merely a sensible measure.

It is understood the Lothian board is one of the first health authorities in the country to implement the guidelines, though dentists can ultimately choose to ignore them.

And it is not clear whether the moves will be extended to GP surgeries, with the British Medical Association saying that it had not been made aware of similar advice.

One dentist based in West Lothian told the Evening News: "We're not convinced.

"If you start taking magazines away then you'll have to stop people touching door handles and make sure they wash their hands thoroughly before coming back from the toilet.

"It certainly wouldn't be 100 per cent effective, and you can hardly stop people bringing in their own magazines to read and then leaving them."

Another city-based dentist added: "Perhaps it's quite a sensible thing, sometimes you see big boxes of toys which won't have been cleaned for ages."

It is thought that even once the swine flu outbreak passes, it is likely the advice will remain to reduce the spread of other bugs.

More than 1,000 people reported to their GP last week with symptoms of flu in the Lothians, and that figure is expected to rise as the temperature continues to plummet.

Dr Marion Storrie, clinical director of Lothian Unscheduled Care Service for NHS Lothian, confirmed the letters had been sent out.

She said: "This guidance was issued to general dental practitioners, advising them that they may wish to consider removing items such as toys and magazines from their waiting area to reduce the spread of the virus."

NHS Lothian already has significant contingency plans in place to tackle swine flu, and the vaccination of the 200,000 at-risk individuals and key frontline healthcare workers has begun.

While swine flu remains a reasonably tame strain of influenza, health chiefs are keen to eliminate the risk of catching it, particularly from healthcare premises

Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients' Association, said: "We fully support NHS Lothian on this, and would urge them to move it on from just a request.

"It has long been known paper is a carrier of infection, especially second-hand. Years ago comics that were sent to infection hospitals used to go straight into the furnace, they knew even then of the dangers."


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