Time to find a better way to resolve patient complaints

The chair of the General Dental Council (GDC), Bill Moyes, used the Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK)’s biennial Malcolm Pendlebury Memorial Lecture on 12 June 2014 to urge the dental profession to seek better ways to resolve patient complaints.

His comments come on the back of a 110% increase in complaints received by the GDC in the last four years, and costs related to fitness to practise cases accounting for more than half of the regulator’s budget. Furthermore, in 2012-2013, NHS England, the Dental Complaints Service, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and the GDC collectively received in excess of 13,000 complaints, which Bill described as ‘staggeringly high’.

He said: ‘The GDC, the FGDP(UK) and other professional bodies need to understand better what is causing this apparently high and growing level of complaints, and what can be done about it’.

Bill went on to talk about an era of ‘conspicuous regulation’, which needs to function within a legislative framework that is ‘badly in need of a complete overhaul’. He called for stakeholders to continue the momentum towards regulatory reform in light of the government’s decision not to progress the Law Commission’s draft bill on a single legal framework for the regulation of health and social care professionals.

It is also Bill’s view that there exists confusion in the minds of politicians, the public and the media on what represents good professional regulation, and whether it should punish past failures or provide a mechanism through which registrants can demonstrate a change in behaviour and improved competency such that they are, or can be, fit to practise once again.

Trevor Ferguson, dean of the FGDP(UK), said: ‘Bill’s concerns around the rise in complaints and fitness to practise cases could be considered as a clarion call to the profession to consider how they may resolve problems at an early stage. Patient protection must be paramount, and we very much support Bill’s assertion that we need to have robust mechanisms of redress in place that include a fitness to practise procedure, but where this is not the only available remedy. We very much support efforts by the GDC to encourage improved communication between professionals and patients.

‘We also welcome the GDC’s efforts in working towards a system that does not duplicate requirements or place unnecessary burden on dental professionals, including a better working relationship between the GDC and the CQC.’

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