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Isolation pods help dental students return to practical learning amid pandemic

·3-min read

Special isolation pods have been installed in Dundee to help dental students return to practical learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

NHS Tayside has bought 20 of the self-contained dental pods, with 14 already in place at the Dundee Dental Hospital and School.

The habitats are typically used for making hot work in hazardous environments safe, involving continuously monitoring the air and closing via a sensor if any toxic or flammable gasses are detected.

But the Dundee-based Starn Group was able to adapt its technology and provide safe environments for healthcare staff and patients which can be quickly and easily installed in older buildings.

Eve Daniell
Eve Daniell, a fifth year undergraduate student at Dundee Dental Hospital (Eve Daniell/PA)

Eve Daniell, a fifth year undergraduate student at Dundee Dental Hospital, is one of a handful of students “fortunate to be able to continue our studies”.

She said: “The clinical training is of course essential and it’s been frustrating being unable to progress, though we understand it’s for the safety of not only us but also our patients.

“The SafeClinic technology has allowed that progression and now that I know how effective it is, I can see the technology being used in dental practices as we as a profession move towards a sense of normality – it’s a solution that it makes sense to use.”

The isolation pods have also been installed by NHS Lanarkshire at University Hospital Wishaw’s Adult Critical Care Unit, and the intensive care unit at University Hospital Hairmyres, East Kilbride.

James Downie, Starn Group project manager, said: “We knew our technology had the potential to be adapted to help the NHS and so we mobilised out teams to make it a reality as soon as we could.

“We conducted extensive research into the guidelines for working within hospital environments, working closely with the NHS on design and construction standards.

“There has been a significant amount of interest in the technology, which is manufactured in Dundee, using locally sourced materials and measured for each location.

“The system has the ability to set the number of air changes in the units with a minimum of 12 per hour drastically reducing the time required between patients from several hours, to a matter of minutes.”

Dr Andrew Hall, clinical senior lecturer at the Dundee Dental School, also said: “The installation of the dental pods has been a significant boost to our severely depleted teaching facilities in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

“Setting up dental pods covering dental chairs in open clinics at Dundee Dental Hospital has allowed us to undertake Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs) such as fillings and crown preparations once more during student clinics.

“While there are some side surgeries for mainly staff use at Dundee dental hospital we have to use ventilation provided by an open window and wait up to 40 minutes for any aerosol to displace.

“Pods allow us more places where we can teach our students and only have to wait 10 minutes for the aerosol to disperse.

“This means we can start to address the backlog in student teaching and experience which has arisen with this significant change in the practise of dentistry.

“While there is still much work to do, pods are a big step in the right direction.”

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