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Dentolegal advice 0800 561 1010

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Common dentolegal queries

  • Q
    My practice principal is reluctant to employ an agency nurse when my dental nurse is off sick, so I must treat patients on my own. How should I deal with this?
    15 September 2015

    To a large extent the problems you have are a contractual matter between you and the practice and therefore very much depend upon the associate agreement you were provided with when you started work.

    Assuming this is a standard associate agreement, you should find there is a clause within that agreement indicating that the practice is required to provide you with the services of a dental nurse on a day-to-day basis. The only time when this would not be the case is when exceptional circumstances exist (sudden illness, etc).

    The General Dental Council’s guidance clearly indicates that all clinicians should work alongside another team member (preferably a registered dental nurse) at all times. This is not necessarily a matter of chaperonage, but in fact relates to the provision of medical emergency care to patients.

    If one of your patients was taken ill during a treatment session and perhaps lost consciousness, you might find yourself facing the dilemma of either looking after the patient or going for help. You could not do both if you were working alone. If a dental nurse was working with you, this would not be the case.

    It follows that if such a situation was to arise, you might have to explain perhaps to the coroner, the courts or the GDC why a dental nurse was not present with you in the surgery, in accordance with GDC guidance. This would not be easy, particularly if it could be shown that the patient had suffered harm through lack of emergency care.

    You should discuss your concerns with the practice owner and practice manager and ask them what action they feel they can take to be of assistance to you. Your associate agreement likely contains a contractual obligation (to say nothing of an ethical obligation) on behalf of the practice to try to ensure a good working environment.

    If the problem continues or shows no signs of resolving, you may have to consider your position at the practice.

  • Q
    Is it okay for me to use an online radiograph interpretation service?
    08 September 2015

    As with any other referral, it is the responsibility of the referring dentist to establish the suitability of the person/service to whom/which the referral is made. Even though teledentistry relies on digital files being exchanged between colleagues, the principle is the same. It is important for you to know who will be responsible for interpreting the patient’s records, as well as establishing that they are registered and what qualifications they have to provide this service.

    To protect the patient, it is also important to know that the distant colleague is suitably indemnified. Dental Protection recommends that members should contact us first if they are considering using a teledentistry service situated outside the UK.

    In addition, Dental Protection recommends that:

    • All patients are made fully aware of the involvement of any other named person(s) in their care and treatment, through teledentistry, and also that they properly understand any constraints, limitations or risks introduced as a result
    • You establish written protocols between yourself and any other clinician/organisation with whom/which you have any kind of teledentistry relationship. These protocols should specify the parameters of the relationship, the role and responsibility of each party, the arrangements in place for data protection, and quality assurance
    Read our position statement on Teledentistry
  • Q
    Who owns a denture that is yet to be paid for?
    01 September 2015

    Generally speaking, the ownership of any item of dental treatment passes to the patient at the time the appliance is fitted. This is, however, not always the same time as the treatment is completed. It follows then that during the various stages of denture construction, a denture itself still belongs to the clinician.

    Once it is fitted, however, the patient then owns that denture, irrespective of whether or not a fee has been paid. Before demanding the outstanding fee, it is wise to check that the patient is happy with the denture. Allow them to express any dissatisfaction they may have and deal with this before deciding if you want to pursue the fee.

    If the situation cannot be resolved, you may want to acknowledge that no fee has been charged and leave the denture with the patient as gesture of goodwill, to potentially mitigate an escalation of the patient’s dissatisfactions.

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