New set of universal principles of good complaint handling

Leaders from across the dental sector join forces to launch universal principles of good complaint handling

Twenty-eight organisations from across the dental sector have joined forces to launch a set of universal principles for good complaint handling today.

The six core principles provide a simple template for best practice, helping professionals and patients to get the most from feedback and complaints, for the benefit of all.

According to the GDC’s 2017 Public and Patient Survey, 97% of dental patients report being either very (67%) or fairly (29%) satisfied with their dental treatment and only 8% report having considered making a complaint. However, of those who have, 33% said they had not done so because they didn’t know where to start.

Six core principles

GDC executive director of strategy, Matthew Hill, said: ‘We all know that good complaint and feedback handling is an important part of being a dental professional which is why we committed to developing a profession-wide understanding of what best practice looks like in Shifting the balance.

He said, through strong support, a working group was formed which went on to develop the six core principles. ‘These set out a very clear picture of what patients can expect when providing feedback or making a complaint,’ explains Matthew.

The six core principles to communicate to patients are:

  1. All of your feedback is important to us.
  2. We want to make it easy for you to raise a concern or complain, if you need to.
  3. We follow a complaints procedure and keep you informed.
  4. We will try to answer all your questions and any concerns you raise.
  5. We want you to have a positive experience of making a complaint.
  6. Your feedback helps us to improve our service.

Director of primary care commissioning at NHS England, Dr David Geddes, said: ‘Local resolution to complaints should always be encouraged and this work will hopefully help dental practices be more confident in their complaint handling.

‘It will also encourage patients and their carers to consider the different ways in which they can provide feedback, with the option of making a formal complaint being more clearly explained.’

Listening to experiences and concerns

The working group’s aim is for the principles to be clearly displayed and accessible in every clinical setting providing dental care by May 2019.

‘Good care not only understands the clinical needs of people using services, but also listens to their experiences and reacts to their concerns,’ said the deputy chief inspector of general practice and dentistry at the Care Quality Commission, Janet Williamson, said: These principles build on the work of the Regulation of Dental Services Programme Board and will help people using services to understand what they should expect when they raise a complaint – as well as helping people working in dentistry to understand that feedback and complaints can play an important part in driving improvements in the care that they offer.’

In response to the announcement on this complaint handling initiative, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Rob Behrens said: ‘The initiative announced today by the dental sector is an important move towards improving frontline complaint handling at a local level. It is far better for service-users to have complaints resolved locally and it ensures that organisations learn from mistakes and services are improved more quickly.

‘It is encouraging to see a whole sector, both NHS and independent providers, unite to develop such an initiative.’

More information and supporting resources, including a poster and leaflet, are available electronically from many of the working group members’ websites. They are also available in hard copy on request.

For more information see

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