2 March 2010

Q. If a patient wants to come to our practice for hygiene treatment, but retain their own dentist to provide dental treatment, what is the best way to obtain a correct referral to me, the hygienist?

This is a particularly difficult question to answer as there are so many unknowns. We do not know, for example, why the patient wishes to come to the hygienist's practice or why they are not happy to have their own dentist carry out this treatment. Similarly it may well be that the principal of the hygienist's practice might feel uneasy about accepting a patient on these terms, particularly if his or her local colleague, who is the patient's regular dentist, knows nothing about it or does not agree with this approach. Most clinicians would be keen to avoid is an inter-practice or professional dispute.

The simple answer would be to ask the patient to return to the original practice and request that the dentist should refer the patient in the usual way. That referral, of course, would need to include a treatment plan (either detailed or in outline) that the hygienist can work with. If the patient's dentist is happy to make such a referral, then there should be no difficulty in treating the patient. It is entirely up to a patient where they seek treatment and, for that matter, what treatments they are willing to undergo.

The GDC has made it clear that a clinician in that situation should respect the patient's decision. Similarly a patient is fully entitled to take the treatment plan provided by a dentist to any other appropriately registered clinician who may then provide that treatment. If the patient then wants to join the hygienist's practice they are perfectly able to do so. The principle of autonomy determines that such a decision rests with the patient.

Dental Protection Limited is registered in England (No. 2374160) and is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Medical Protection Society Limited (MPS) which is registered in England (No.36142). Both companies use Dental Protection as a trading name and have their registered office at 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PS.

Dental Protection Limited serves and supports the dental members of MPS with access to the full range of benefits of membership, which are all discretionary, and set out in MPS’s Memorandum and Articles of Association. MPS is not an insurance company. Dental Protection® is a registered trademark of MPS.

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