How to Complain about a Dentist
Complaints about dentists are becoming more common. Dental work can be very expensive and increasingly we are all have to pay for part or all of any treatment we receive. Accordingly many people are becoming more assertive and demanding when things do not appear to go the plan. My top tips are set out below:-
- Bear in mind that a complaint to a private practice will be different in many respects to an NHS practice. In the former case you have the law on contract on your side which puts you in a stronger bargaining position.
- The starting point should always be the practice itself. There is a legal obligation for dental surgeries to have a complaints procedure that names an individual to whom you can complain.
- Follow that procedure either in person or in writing but if you do the former, follow it up with a letter summarising what you have said. Always think in terms of a paper trail.
- In the case of an NHS practice your next port of call should be your Primary Care Trust – a local body that is responsible for managing healthcare in your area. See this link to find your PCT: http://www.nhs.uk/ServiceDirectories/Pages/ServiceSearchAdditional.aspx?SearchType=PCT&ServiceType=Trust
- PCTs usually offer a conciliation service to help resolve the problem ie. a kind of mediation service that creatures a neutral platform for complaints.
- If the PCT route fails you can then seek an Independent Review which is a more formal process. If the complaint is serious a panel will be formed to consider your case but this panel cannot award compensation nor take disciplinary action but it can make helpful findings. You can subsequently make a complaint to the Health Service Ombudsman about cases of poor procedure or misinformation but he will not deal with matters that can be dealt with by the courts eg. poor medical treatment.
- Complaints about improper or unprofessional conduct should be made to the General Dental Council which has wide ranging disciplinary powers.
- As usual, if all else fails you are left with a complaint through the legal system but do be careful. It is a serious and expensive matter to sue a dentist and before you embark on this course you will almost certainly need independent expert evidence to support your claim. Weak claims are vigorously defended so if you lose, you could be ordered to pay the dentist’s legal bill. Do not take this course lightly.