Dental company boss calls on industry to rid supply chains of labour abuse risks

01 May 2020
2 min read

Following allegations that the NHS is 'turning a blind eye' to labour rights violations in the trade of masks and gloves, Joe Earl, general manager at Dental Sky, suggests that dental wholesalers need to demand clarity from their suppliers when it comes to ordering PPE for dentists and their teams.

In an article published by the British Medical Journal yesterday (30 April), Mahmood Bhutta, a consultant in ear, nose and throat surgery at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, says he feels ‘ashamed as a doctor to be wearing gloves manufactured using human exploitation’.

Mahmood, who founded the Medical Fair and Ethical Trade Group in 2006, suggests whilst labour abuse continues, the coronavirus pandemic is bringing about an increase in the suffering of thousands of workers.

In the BMJ article, journalist Jane Feinmann spoke to Mahmood as she explored allegations of abuse around the production of medical gloves and masks and the use of child labour to make surgical instruments destined for the global market.

With the World Health Organisation warning that the ‘chronic global shortage of personal protective gear is among the most urgent threats to virus containment efforts’, Mahmood Bhutta argues lessons should be learnt from the difficulties of getting supplies of PPE during this global crisis.

Commenting on the report, Dental Sky’s Joe Earl said: ‘The current COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on some of the problems in the supply chain and I believe now is the time to demand greater clarity in the whole process. 

‘Like the NHS and all other organisations, Dental Sky takes the allegations of labour abuses in supply chains very seriously. We have been giving considerable thought to how we may leverage our contractual arrangements and initiatives in a way that helps to curtail such abhorrent practices.

‘Our effectiveness is more limited if we act alone, and I would strongly endorse a group of wholesalers in our industry collaborating in order to bring more transparency to the whole process. We have to be more proactive in helping drive out any instance of human exploitation in our supply chains. This will require us, as wholesalers, to be more open too, about the due diligence we do on our manufacturers and also about the standards to which we hold them.’

He added: ‘We must be realistic that it is highly likely this increased pressure on manufacturers could lead to price increases; this requires wholesalers to be transparent about the impacts of this in their pricing, and end users to set their price expectations accordingly. Nevertheless, it requires, at the very least, that our suppliers provide acceptable working conditions for all their staff. This is not an option, it is simply what we must do and, if the consequence of this is higher prices, so be it.’