A new independent complaints service has been launched by the General Dental Council (GDC), the regulatory body for UK dentists.
The service will make complaints about private dental care easier and quicker to resolve, and is an important step forwards in enhancing patient protection and promoting high standards of dentistry in the UK.
Resolving complaints can involve recommending an apology, a refund of fees and/or a contribution by a dental practice towards the costs of remedial treatment. If an NHS patient has a complaint they can use the NHS complaints process, but until now there has been nothing in place to assist the private dental patient, and this new service aims to plug that gap.
The service is preparing for up to 4,000 complaints each year from across the UK and it is hoped that patients will use this service to sort out problems and avoid the expense and delays of court action.
GDC’s President, Hew Mathewson said: “The Dental Complaints Service is to help dental patients resolve complaints about private dental care as fairly, efficiently, transparently and quickly as possible. The service will also help dental professionals to improve the quality of service they provide.”
Health Minister, Rosie Winterton welcomes the new service and believes that an equivalent to the NHS patient complaints service has been long overdue: "We are delighted that the Dental Complaints Service has been launched. The General Dental Council is to be congratulated on setting up this new initiative."
Dissatisfied dental patients who call the Dental Complaints Service will first be encouraged to use their dental practice's own complaints procedures, if they have not already done so. If a complaint remains unresolved, Dental Complaints Service advisers will discuss it directly with the patient and dental professional concerned.
If the adviser cannot resolve matters, the complaint will go to one of a series of regional panels, consisting of two members of the public (lay volunteers) and one dental professional volunteer, who will advise the lay panel members on clinical issues.
The panel will meet with the dentist and complainant and recommend how best to resolve the complaint, with the emphasis being on resolving complaints using common sense. Serious complaints - which raise issues about patient safety and whether a practitioner should be allowed to continue practising - will continue to be dealt with by the GDC.
The new complaints system gets approval from the British Dental Association who believes it is an important development for dentists and patients.
Dental patients can contact the Dental Complaints Service by calling 08456 120 540 (local rate), visiting www.dentalcomplaints.org.uk, or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The service can also supply contact details for complaints about NHS dental care.