Make it easy for patients to complain, defence union says

complaintDental practices should make it easy for patients to complain about dental treatment, the DDU says.

Figures show there were 14,000 NHS dental treatment complaints in 2017/18.

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has published a guide on dealing with dental complaints in its latest DDU journal.

‘Complaints are common and it’s vital to know how to respond to them professionally and appropriately,’ John Makin, head of the DDU said.

‘Our data indicates that around 90% of complaints are resolved at practice level with our help.

‘It cannot be over-emphasised that it is hugely important no obstacles are in the path of a patient wishing to complain.

‘Practice websites should include full details of the practice complaints procedure as well as in the practice information leaflet.

‘Display a notice prominently at the practice reception and/or in the waiting area.’

Some suggestions

Rupert Hoppenbrouwers has suggested some ways to help satisfy a patient and resolve the complaint.

In the DDU guide, the senior-dental legal adviser suggests:

  • An expression of sympathy and empathy and a sincere apology where appropriate
  • A purely factual resume of the clinical sequence that references the clinical records, to help remind the patient of events
  • An explanation in plain language, so the patient understands what happened, why it happened and how to resolve the issue
  • An offer to meet the patient face-to-face to discuss matters
  • An offer to treat the patient again and resolve the issue(s) they are complaining about
  • An offer to refer the patient to a colleague in the practice for continuation of their treatment
  • An offer to refer the patient to an independent consultant or specialist for a second opinion
  • What action you have taken to learn from their complaint and prevent a recurrence
  • If you think it’s appropriate, an offer to refund the whole or part of the fees, or to provide remedial treatment free-of-charge, as a gesture of goodwill.

‘If patients who wish to complain do not know about the practice procedure or think complaints aren’t taken seriously, there is a high risk they will complain elsewhere,’ John continues.

‘Once a complaint involves an outside body, dental professionals no longer have any control over how it’s managed.

‘While dealing with a complaint may be somewhat stressful and time consuming, it is time and effort well spent to try to resolve concerns as quickly as possible to the satisfaction of all concerned.’

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