Dentists warned, ‘don’t do discounts’

Legal experts are warning dental professionals to be wary of promoting their practice by offering discount vouchers.

By tempting patients through the surgery door with discounts on particular treatments, dental practitioners may be inadvertently making themselves vulnerable to a complaint – or even a GDC investigation.

Rupert Hoppenbrouwers, head of the dental Defence Union (DDU) is said: ‘While in these straitened times, it may make business sense to tempt new patients through your door with a bargain, dentists need to put their professional obligations first. We have received a number of calls to our advice line from members seeking advice about whether to take part in discount voucher schemes.

‘Our view is that by accepting discount vouchers for a particular procedure such as tooth-coloured restorations or veneers, dental professionals are effectively committing themselves to providing invasive treatment which may not prove clinically necessary, appropriate or in the patient’s best interest on examination. If the patient has paid for and expects a particular treatment that is not in their best interest, and you are obliged to disappoint them, they may well feel justified in making a complaint or even reporting you to the GDC.

‘The fact that the GDC was prompted to advise dental professionals about discount deals earlier this month suggests that this is a problem area, which is generating complaints to the regulator.’

The DDU reminds dental professionals that in promoting their practice they must meet the standards set by the GDC by avoiding any offer or claim which could be seen as misleading and putting the interests of patients above their own or their business.

In addition, marketing material must conform to the Code published by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP). The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which enforces the Code, can demand the withdrawal of adverts and offenders can also be referred to the Office of Fair Trading.

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