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Patient Rights, Complaints, and Legal Implications in Dental Care

A gentleman comes to reception to make a verbal complaint. A tooth you recently root filled was extracted over the weekend by an emergency dentist. The patient says that it was a waste of time and money and he would never have had it done if he knew it needed to be extracted.

A) A patient’s right to raise a complaint and the complaint’s value to a practice

A patient has the right to raise a claim if they are unsatisfied with the treatment or the quality of the dental service they have received (Collier, 2014a).The General Dental Council (2013) acknowledges the patient’s right to complain and states that dental care professionals are obligated to address their patient’s concerns. In this way, a complaint system has been set in place for patients to deliver and express their concerns. Patients may complain at any aspect of the care provided such as unfavorable outcome, procedural errors and miscommunication or may highlight a mistake that any member of the dental team could make (Dental Protection, 2013). A complaint if ignored or not resolved locally the patient has the authority to raise it to the Health Service Ombudsman or the Dental Complaint Service for those having dental treatments in a private sector (Tullo,2009). Thus, complaints should never be underestimated, and dentists should always aim for its resolution as it can potentially escalate to legal action. As a consequence, complaints can be distressing to the members of the dental team and threatens the members’ registration with the GDC (GDC, 2013). Therefore, all dental team members should adopt a preventative approach to avoid complaints emerging in any case.

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It is fundamental that the practice holds the greatest numbers of patients as possible who can attend consistently for examinations and treatments. Therefore, it is essential not to be defensive against any individuals who made the complaint and consider it as an opportunity to improve and develop the service provided by the dental practice for the future (GDC,2013). Moreover, sharing the lesson learned from the complaint with all dental team members to avoid further complaints emerging. Dealing with the patient's concerns fairly and respectively have a positive outcome as it maintains the practice’s reputation (Collier, 2014d). Additionally, an effective complaint resolution can also keep the dentist-patient relationship (Dental Protection, 2013). On the other hand, it allows the performance of the dental team members to be supervised and to build up their skills, especially if a shortcoming was highlighted by the complaint (Dental Protection, 2013). Thus, a complaint can be of great value t the dental practice and all the members of the dental team.

b) How his complaint should be handled and what resources should be in place in the practice

At the point when complaints do emerge it is fundamental to recognize and to deal with them properly to counteract escalation. According to the GDC (2013), the patients are of the expectation that there should be a prompt acknowledgment of their complaints. Therefore, the dentist should ensure that their patients, as well as all dental team members, are aware of complaint systems in practice, how they run and the practical aspect associated with them (GDC, 2013). A complaint system should be readily accessible for patients to utilize maintaining the patient confidentiality throughout and to be followed at all times by the GDC's fifth guideline (2013) " Have a clear and efficient complaint system ."Furthermore, the complaint system should be available in any format that is suitable to the patient needs and should be simple to follow. Additionally, it should provide information on the organizations that the patient can contact to raise concerns(GDC, 2013).

According to Guidance 5.2.1, it is essential to find out what the patient wants by spending time listening to his complaint and fully engaging him with the complaint procedure (GDC, 2013). This procedure is valuable particularly at an early stage where dissatisfaction can be verbally settled down (Collier,2014a). If it failed to be resolved verbally, a complaint would be submitted, and an investigation should be carried out to collect relevant information, then a written response will be constructed offering the patient with an explanation and the all the steps included. Additionally, it is essential to provide the patient with an apology ensuring that his complaint will be considered significant and reacted to inappropriate timing by the practice complaint system, of which the patient ought to have a copy of (GDC, 2013). The dentist should manage all the points brought up in the complaint and offer an appropriate solution for each. Moreover, the dental practice can ask the dental defense organization for assistance in resolving the complaint raised when needed (GDC, 2013).Perceiving a complaint and acting fast with a successful team-working strategy, increases the possibility for it to be resolved (Collier, 2014d). The patient should be followed up, inquiring as to whether he is satisfied and whether he requires any more action. A separate written record of the complaint should be kept together with the solutions offered so that the patients are not disheartened from making a complaint (GDC,2013).

It is critical that a patient who raises a claim is dealt with politely and not discriminated against (Dental Protection, 2013).The patient should still receive the dental care he requires if he is happy to be seen and continue his treatment in the same dental practice. It is not reasonable to refrain treating a patient due to a complaint the patient has made about the dental practice (GDC, 2013). However, if the patient is not satisfied despite all the efforts done to resolve the issue, the patient has the authority to raise the complaint to other platforms for health service complaints, for example, Ombudsman, for health service complaints. If a patient had treatment in private practice, they could consult the Dental Complaints Service.

A) Discuss what issues were important to have considered about the consent process for the initial root canal treatment.

Complaints commonly emerge due to patients feeling that their requirements have not been met. The lack of satisfaction by a patient can result in misunderstanding and communication failure (Collier,2014b). A patient might be disappointed because a treatment fails or because a treatment works yet not to the degree they wanted. These observations stress the importance of obtaining a valid consent. Valid consent can be achieved by informing the patient about the risks and benefits associated with the treatment in this case Root Canal Treatment, how it is carried out, over how many appointments, how much it will cost, the risk of failed treatment and the prognosis of the tooth (Collier,2014b). Additionally, the need to find out the patients’ desire and what they might need knowing (Collier, 2014a; 2014b). According to the GDC (2013), the dentist should discuss the patient’s desired outcomes thoroughly prior commencing the treatment. An estimation of success and failure rates depending on the status of the tooth clinically and radiographically should be given prior treatment. This situation could also be avoided if the patient was given alternatives treatments options such as doing nothing or extracting the tooth explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each. The dentist must ensure that the patient has understood the information given and allowing the patient to ask questions and whether they need time to make a decision(GDC, 2013). The time spent by the dental professional explaining the procedure and what are the risks associated with it to the patient is beneficial when issues emerged unexpectedly (Dental Protection, 2013). Additionally, the presence of a third party from the dental team, for example, the dental nurse during the consultation proved to be valuable (Collier, 2014c).The dental nurse can potentially confirm the discussion by writing what was said and agreed with the patient in the patient’s records. This debate is critical, especially when there might be a disagreement over what has been said and agreed between the patient and the dentist particularly if the event happened in the past.

However, at any point, the patient does not completely understand and trust what has been said to him the dentist should be despite the provision of treatment unless clarification has been made and the patient is happy to proceed (GDC, 2013). According to GDC (2013) in such situations, the dental professional should act respectfully towards the patient and possibly refer them to another competent colleague.

Moreover, logical steps regarding the first acknowledgment of patient dissatisfaction and negative non-verbal communication by dental team members will resolve concerns rapidly preventing complaint escalation A(Collier, 2014a).According to the scenario given, it is evident that miscommunication was the biggest problem that ended with a complaint. Although the patient has the right to make a complaint, this, on the other hand, taught the dentist a lesson to inform the patient about everything related to the treatment beforehand and making sure the patient understand the risk associated with it.

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Bibliography

  • Collier, A. 2014a. The Management of Risk Part 1: Why Complaints Happen and How to Prevent Them.Dental Update.41(2),pp.168-173.
  • Collier, A. 2014b. The Management of Risk Part 2: Good Consent and Communication.Dental Update.41(3),pp.236-241.
  • Collier, A. 2014c. The Management of Risk Part 3: Recording Your Way Out of Trouble.Dental Update.41(4),pp.338-340.
  • Collier, A. 2014d. The Management of Risk Part 4: Resolving Complaints.Dental Update.41(5),pp.423-427.
  • Dental Protection. 2013. Handling Complaints. [Online].[Accessed 7th February 2017]. Available from:http://www.dentalprotection.org/docs/librariesprovider4/dental-advice-booklets/dental-advice-booklet-complaints-handling-england.pdf?sfvrsn=28
  • General Dental Council. 2013. Standards for the Dental Team. [Online].[Accessed 7th February 2017]. Available from:http://www.gdcuk.org/Dentalprofessionals/Standards/Documents/Standards%20for%20the%20Dental%20Team.pdf
  • Tullo, C. 2009. The Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints Regultaion 2009. [Online]. [Accessed 7th February 2017]. Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2009/1768/pdfs/uksi_20091768_en.pdf

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