‘Friendly’ fire

shutterstock_526205485Too many complaints about dental colleagues are going straight through to the GDC, John Makin says.

When I was a young dental student back in the early 1980s I was taught never to criticise the work of a colleague, as you couldn’t be sure of the circumstances under which the treatment was provided.

In my view, notwithstanding the duty to raise concerns as set out in principle eight of the GDC’s Standards, this remains as important today as it was then.

It is disappointing that here at the DDU, we are seeing an increasing number of claims and GDC cases that appear to have resulted from critical comments made by other dental professionals.


Colleagues should explain their clinical findings to patients in clear terms and answer any questions honestly, subjective and inflammatory comments should be avoided.

The GDC’s own guidance explains that if there are genuine concerns that patients may be at risk, wherever possible they should first be raised at a local level.

Referrals can be made to the GDC where action at a local level is impractical, has failed or the issue is so severe that a direct referral is indicated.

The GDC is also not the correct forum to pursue business and contractual disputes.

The threat of referral to the regulator is unprofessional and this course of action can backfire and often ends in tears for all those involved.

Third parties

To try to avoid the risk of personal, financial and business matters spilling over to involve patients or third parties such as NHS commissioners or the GDC, the DDU’s advice is to have robust and equitable arrangements, such as associate and partnership agreements, in place from the outset.

These can be relied upon when, for whatever reason, one or all of the parties moves on.

While dental professionals have a duty to raise concerns if patients are a risk, only in rare situations will the GDC be your first port of call.

Dental professionals should seek the advice of their dental defence organisation if they have questions about how best to raise concerns.

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