Infection risk after NHS dentist 're-used instruments'

Dr Mark Roberts worked at this dental surgery in the Splott area of Cardiff. Credit: ITV News

Thousands of patients of a former NHS dentist in Cardiff are due to receive letters today, warning they could be infected from hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV - because he was allegedly re-using instruments he should have disposed of.

Dr Mark Roberts worked at the Splott Road Dental Practice between 1989 and February 2015, when he was suspended.

Health chiefs have contacted 3,245 patients who remained on his caseload.

They say he treated up to 18,000 people during his time as a dentist in Cardiff - but many are no longer on the records.

They have stressed the risk of infection is 'very low' - at around 1 in 10,000 - but have set up an advice line for anyone with concerns to contact.

After Dr Roberts sold the practice in November 2014, a whistleblower made claims that he had been re-using instruments, against guidelines.

The allegations are:

  • He re-used endodontic files (for root canal fillings) rather than disposing of them after a single use

  • He re-used local anaesthetic cartridges, rather than disposing of them after a single use

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Public Health Wales have stressed that the risk of cross-infection due to the transfer of blood between patients is very low.

Former patients of Dr Roberts are not being advised to have blood tests, unless you have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • you have ever injected drugs or shared snorting straws for drug use

  • you have received blood products and/or organ transplantation before 1992

  • you have received medical or dental procedures abroad which may be unsterile

  • you are a sexual partner of someone who is hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV positive

  • you have received tattooing or body piercing that may be unsterile

  • you were born in a country with an intermediate or high prevalence of hepatitis B or hepatitis C (this includes all countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Eastern and Southern Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands)

The dental practice, in Splott, was inspected in 2008, 2011 and 2013 - but no concerns regarding infection control procedure were found.

A further inspection has taken place in June 2015, since Dr Roberts left the practice.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Public Health Wales and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales have now commissioned an external review of inspection procedure.

Dr Roberts is being investigated by the General Dental Council.

The advice line will be running for two weeks and can be reached on 0800 952 0055