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Making Dental Complaint Procedures User Friendly

Tags: Complaints Handling, Patient Communication, Policies

05.01.2017

During December 2015 the Regulation of Dental Services Programme Board announced its intention to address the problems highlighted in their public consultation in respect of the perceived complexity of dental complaints procedures.

They have now published a statement to clarify NHS and Private complaints procedures, which dental providers should make reference to when reviewing their complaints procedure.

The Regulation of Dental Services Programme Board statement responds to the following points raised as concerns during their public consultation:

  1. The dental complaints system is complex and confusing for patients, providers and regulators especially given the mixed public/private provision of dental services
  2. Overlaps between organisations bring a lack of clarity, with multiple organisations potentially responsible for different aspects of the same complaint
  3. There is a lack of consistency: different organisations are subject to different timeframes for dealing with complaints, and cover different nations of the UK
  4. Patients who initially approach the ‘wrong’ body may then be lost to the system completely

In response to these points the Board has issued a statement to provide clarity on how to complain and to demystify the range different organisations available to provide help and support to the public when they want to make a complaint about dental care they have received.

Practices should make sure the following information is included in their information provided to NHS and private patients to ensure information about complaints procedures and other related patient-facing information is clear and helpful.

Patient Facing Information

When working to develop user-friendly systems and guidance for using those systems the importance of gathering information directly from patients cannot be underestimated.

Gathering information about dental patient’s experiences highlights what the practice does well and where improvements may be needed.

Actively encourage patents to tell you if they are unhappy with any aspect of treatment or service they have received. This provides valuable chances to put things right there and then, or if there has been a misunderstanding , the chance to explain and inform.

Complaints about NHS Treatment

Patients should be aware of this simple approach if they need to make an official complaint about NHS treatment:

  1. The quickest and simplest way to resolve the problem is to contact the practice and speak to the practice manager, who may be able to work out an immediate resolution with you. If this initial informal approach does not lead to a satisfactory resolution ask for a copy of the practice’s complaints procedure. If you would like support to make a complaint, you can get help from an NHS Complaints Advocate. Contact your local Healthwatch to find out who provides Independent Health Complaints Advocacy in your local area.
  2. If you would rather not go directly to the practice, you can contact NHS England instead. NHS England is responsible for commissioning (buying) NHS dental services.
  3. If you are not happy with the way your formal complaint was handled (either by the dental practice or NHS England, if you chose to go to them) you can go to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). The Ombudsman makes the final decision on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England.

More information about the NHS complaints process, what to expect from it, and other ways to give feedback, are on the NHS Choices website.

Complaints about private dental treatment

  1. The quickest and simplest way to resolve the problem is to contact the practice and speak to the practice manager, who may be able to work out an immediate resolution with you. If this initial informal approach does not lead to a satisfactory resolution ask for a copy of the practice’s complaints procedure.
  2. If the matter is unresolved after you have made a formal approach to the practice, you can consider the following;
  • You can contact the Dental Complaints Service (DCS). The DCS provides a free and impartial service to help private dental patients and dental professionals to settle complaints about private dental care fairly and efficiently. The DCS can deal with your complaint if you would like an apology, a refund or a contribution to the cost of further treatment. They cannot deal with claims for compensation, or with complaints about dental plans.
  • If your private treatment was through a dental plan Contact your plan provider as they will have a complaints process.
  • If you have safety concerns about a dentist or practice
  • If the problem is so serious that you think the dental professional could be a risk to other patients, you should contact the General Dental Council (GDC), which regulates dental professionals in the UK. If the issue is serious enough, the GDC can stop individual dentists from practising. The GDC does not get involved in complaints that are being managed locally. It does not resolve complaints or award compensation.
  • If the problem is so serious that you think the care provided at the practice could be a risk to other patients, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) would like to know about it. CQC cannot investigate individual complaints, but its inspectors use information when they inspect services to make sure that they are meeting quality and safety standards.

If you need further advice, you can contact local Healthwatch for information about how to make a complaint about NHS dental services. Citizens Advice also provides information and advice about making complaints.

The Regulation of Dental Services Programme Board has attempted to clarify existing information; rather than changing the complaints process.

They have also added extra information about the orgainisations available to provide help and guidance. After making the required additions, why not consult patients from a range of backgrounds to find out how easy to follow they consider information provided by the practice to be.

By Charlotte Cash