Public supports NHS dentist protection from COVID-19 litigation

Around 70% of the public believe NHS staff – including dentists – involved in treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic should be shielded from the risk of litigationSeven in 10 believe NHS staff – including dentists – involved in treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic should be shielded from the risk of litigation.

This is according to a new survey carried out by the parent company of the Dental Defence Union (DDU).

It revealed that 70% of the public believe dental professionals, doctors and other staff should be able to provide treatment without the risk of the NHS being sued for negligence.

Comparatively, only 7% of participants disagreed.

Finances overwhelmed

‘We know the public has enormous respect for the sacrifices healthcare professionals have made during the pandemic,’ said John Makin, head of the DDU.

‘Millions have been showing their support by clapping for carers and key workers every Thursday. The NHS Charities Together appeal has raised an amazing £100 million in just six weeks.

‘However, we are fearful that NHS finances – already affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – could be overwhelmed in just a few years by the cost of negligence claims that are likely to follow without government intervention.

‘The survey shows that the majority of the public agrees with us that this cannot be allowed to happen.

‘We need the government to take action to ensure the NHS is exempted from an avalanche of negligence claims.’

Spike in claims

In recent years – although unrelated to the care it provides – the cost of NHS clinical negligence has spiked significantly.

By March 2019, it was estimated by NHS Resolution that accumulated claims could amount to £83.4bn.

Additionally, members of the DDU have reported several complaints since the start of lockdown at the end of March.

Compensation, not accountability

Mr Makin added: ‘Staff responding to COVID-19 are likely to be judged long after the public memory has faded. And by standards unreflective of current conditions.

‘Anyone who says otherwise, to try to reassure dental professionals, hasn’t experienced the harsh reality of clinical negligence claims.

‘It is unlikely the courts will relax long-established legal principles in judging the standard of care provided.

‘Dental professionals recognise they must be accountable for their actions. For example, through the complaints procedures or by their regulator.

‘But clinical negligence claims are about compensation, not accountability.’

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