""Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink" - complaint about NHS Tayside's removal of drinking water dispensers"

About: Dundee Dental Hospital / Dental

(as a service user),

This is an account of my experience a month ago at Dundee’s Dental Hospital. It was the hottest day of the year so far and I was to have a lip biopsy. The waiting area was quite cool but there was no water dispenser and most people did not look very happy or relaxed. There was nowhere in the building where you could purchase a bottle of water.

In common with many people using the dental hospital, I was anxious about the imminent procedure, and when stressed our mouths become dry. When I got into the theatre room it was hot and busy with windows all along the side, through which the sun was pouring. Once lying down in the chair with light overhead, the young dentist did her best to put me at my ease but kept remarking on how hot it was, no air conditioning or drinking water. The sun was pouring into the room which was full of medical staff.

The dentist was supervised by a consultant who was looking after another patient at the other end of the building. After my anaesthetic the procedure to remove 5 salivary glands from my mouth went ahead. Everyone in the room was hot. One of the staff said that NHS Tayside has removed the water dispensers for reasons of cost saving. She says that she has written to the powers that be to explain that this is having a terrible impact on many first floor patients, who can't be soothed prior to a stressful procedure with a glass of water if they feel dizzy or faint, and who can't now have their bloodied and very dry mouths washed/rinsed out after the operation, apart from a basic wipe with distilled water from a sealed plastic container. She has heard nothing back. When you consider that my biopsy is being investigated for Sjogren's Syndrome -the “drying up” autoimmune disease – it becomes potentially dangerous not to be have anything to drink. The staff were all very professional and kind. My results were strongly positive so I have Sjogren's disease.

I should say that I was advised by an officer working for the Cabinet secretary for Health & Wellbeing, to use this platform for my complaint. But it is NHS Tayside's policy to remove water dispensers I'm complaining about - not the quality of the treatment I received or the facilities themselves - which were all excellent.

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Response from Alison Moss, Feedback Manager, NHS Tayside We are preparing to make a change

Dear "Twitchytoes"

I am really sorry to hear of your experience while attending Dundee Dental Hospital. Although there are no water dispensers within the hospital, drinking water is available for patients who require it and I am sorry this was not offered to you at the time of your appointment. In addition, patients should always be offered an opportunity to rinse their mouths after treatment at the chair side, if they wish to do so.

I recognise the importance of having drinking water available for patients and the public and, in light of your feedback, I am exploring additional options to ensure water is more easily available.

Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.

Kind regards

Joanne Cameron

Clinical Services Manager

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Update posted by Twitchytoes (a service user)

Hi Joanne. Thanks for your response to my story.

However I am concerned that you have misunderstood the point of me telling it here - and appear to be criticising the staff for not giving me water or allowing me to swill out after this procedure. This was not the case at all.

The explanation that drinking water was unavailable to me and other patients was unprompted by any request from me. I was not requiring anything to drink although I hadn't brought my water bottle through with me because I assumed I would be able to drink if I needed to.

But because the day was already so hot and the room was full of people - and I suffer from dizziness/ disequilibrium as part of my Sjogren's Syndrome - I may have appeared a bit more apprehensive than I actually was. The young dentist volunteered this information to me unprompted well before the procedure took place. This information she gave being that NHS Tayside has removed the water dispenser, previously available to staff and patients alike, from the dental hospital and now no source of drinking water or containers are available for use of either party. This is what I was informed and all the attending staff affirmed this statement. If the dispenser is no longer there for everyone to use, I'm presuming that there aren't containers that meet with infection control regulations for people to use either - even if there is a tap somewhere nearby?

During the biopsy procedure the consultant discussed this policy with dentist and other staff because she was hot and thirsty herself and had no time to get to the staff room for water. This was because she was apparently between patients, both having complex procedures at different ends of the hospital. I was concerned because there is no air conditioning and all staff looked very hot. It wasn't good to think that staff might be dehydrated when removing tiny salivary glands from my mouth!

She told her young colleague that she had written to the powers that be about this but no response or action. She was concerned that staff, and even more that her first floor patients - were suffering from this board policy to remove all drinking water from the dental hospital premises.

The reason I couldn't swill out afterwards was because the procedure took place in a dental chair in a theatre so there wasn't the usual basin or dispenser or cup/ glass that we see in most dentist's rooms.

They were all much more concerned for me than for themselves of course and most apologetic. I told them I would say something and they were all very grateful.

My hope is that you will review this policy urgently, rather than criticising/ blaming dental staff - which I feel would be quite wrong. I hope I have clarified my intentions in telling this story in the first place and that you now interpret it somewhat differently to how it came over in your initial response.

Response from Alison Moss, Feedback Manager, NHS Tayside

Thank you for your further comments in relation to your story. I am sorry if you feel I have misunderstood.

I discussed your initial concerns with the Oral Surgery Team prior to posting my previous response, which contained the information I received from the Senior Dental Nurse. I also highlighted to the Team that you were extremely satisfied with the quality of the treatment you received and they were very grateful for your positive feedback.

Drinking water is available within Dundee Dental Hospital for staff and patients. This was previously available in bottled form; however this is now available directly from the main water supply. I will ensure all staff are aware of where to access drinking water. As outlined in my initial response, your post has prompted us to consider the accessibility of drinking water within the Dental Hospital and we are currently exploring options to make this more easily accessible.

I would be happy to meet with you to discuss this further. If you would like to do so, please contact Alison Moss either by telephone on 0800 027 5507 (freephone) or via email to feedback.tayside@nhs.net and she will be happy to make the necessary arrangements.

Thank you once again for bringing this matter to my attention.

Kind regards.


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Update posted by Twitchytoes (a service user)

Thanks for your second response Joanne. I'm very glad that you looked into this, following my story here. I'm particularly pleased and relieved to learn from you that patients and staff are able to easily access drinking water again if when they need it. I hope this policy will be reviewed for each NHS Tayside premises in the same way now.

Best wishes,


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