7 February 2012
With a team of fifty dento-legal advisers available to support the profession, Dental Health has selected some recent enquires they have received to see what the experts at Dental Protection have to say. The situations have been fictionalised to ensure confidentiality.
My practice has a high turnover of dentists. If a GDP refers a patient to me (a hygienist) and then subsequently leaves our practice, is the referral still valid, as it would be if the dentist still worked for the company? Or should a currently employed dentist rewrite the referral?
The referral from the GDP is still valid in the situation that you describe providing that there has not been an unduly large time lag between the referral being written and the patient being seen by you.
At the time of creating the original referral the patient would have been examined and the GDP would have made a referral on the basis of those clinical findings. Those clinical findings and any associated tests and investigations form part of the patient’s clinical record and this does not automatically leave the practice when the dentist in question moves on.
There may, in rare circumstances, be a wide variation between what is written in the original referral and what the new dentist considers should be written. However, care plans are not set in stone and can be modified. A simple discussion (documented within the notes) between the hygienist and the new dentist should be sufficient to ensure continuity.
It is important to remember that the patient is at the centre of the process and their consent is required for any changes which may arise in respect of the originally planned treatment.