HIV fears as dentist faults are uncovered in North Berwick surgery

Thousands of patients have received warning letters and a helpline has been set up offering advice on HIV and hepatitis, after hygiene failures were uncovered at a dental practice.

The moves were taken after the problems were uncovered during an inspection at Law Road Dental Practice in North Berwick, East Lothian. Inspectors found some of the measures taken to prevent infection were not up to standard.

Around 3500 letters have been sent to patients and anyone concerned about the risk of blood-borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C can contact a helpline and may be offered testing if required.

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Public health inspectors who visited the practice in May found that some infection control procedures at the practice did not meet national standards, including inadequate decontamination of a small number of instruments.

Dr Christine Evans, consultant in public health medicine at NHS Lothian, said: “We are working closely with experts and have concluded there is a very low risk of infection. While general infection control procedures were in place, a small number of procedures did not comply with national standards.

“Our priority is always the safety and welfare of patients and NHS Lothian has therefore decided to write to inform them. The letter stresses that no action is required, but further advice and testing will be available if anyone remains concerned having read the letter and after calling the helpline. We have taken similar action to inform staff at the practice.”

The independent practice is owned by dentist Leonardo Carbiner, who yesterday said: “There is an ongoing investigation which we are fully cooperating in and I wouldn’t like to make any comment.”

Dental Defence Union also issued a statement on his behalf, which said: “Dr Carbiner would like to reassure patients that he and his team have always put the health, safety and best interests of patients first. The practice is cooperating fully with the health board’s investigations.”

Patients leaving the practice yesterday afternoon said they had not yet received the letters.

One said she had been unaware of any hygiene problems at the practice, but added: “I’ve just been in and I had an appointment for the hygienist and a check-up and I’ve been in and out in ten minutes. My impression was poor. It wasn’t a proper clean and the check-up was desultory.”

But others lent their support. Chef Iain McGregor, 33, said he was not concerned: “I’ve always had great treatment. They maybe just had a bad week or something,” he said.

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Letters were sent to patients registered at the practice between 5 February 5, 2009 when the practice changed ownership, and May 23, 2012, though anyone who was treated there during this time and has not received a letter is also welcome to call the helpline.

The helpline is on 08000 28 28 36 and is open between 8am and 10pm until July 2.