One of the many advantages of being a member of a dentists-for-dentists specialist organisation such as Dental Protection, is that you are able to discuss your problems and concerns with experienced dental colleagues who can empathise with and understand the situation you are facing.
Dental Protection advocates a policy of honest and open communication with patients. When complications and errors do arise, you should be prepared to provide your patients with objective factual information in a caring and supportive fashion, together with an appropriate explanation of any clinical issues in terms that the patient is likely to understand. Patients have a right to be informed of any matters which relate to their health, or to treatment provided for them; you should try not to withhold objective factual information or an expression of regret or sympathy where appropriate.
Saying that you are sorry that an incident has occurred, or expressing your regret that a patient is upset or unhappy, is not necessarily an admission of guilt, fault or liability. It may not be appropriate, however, to speculate or to cast blame unless and until all the relevant facts have been carefully established by proper and thorough inquiry. An inappropriate remark could prejudice your own interests and/or those of other practitioners.
The following tips will help to reduce complaints and also assist in the success of any defence which may be required:
- Do not carry out any treatment which is beyond your training, experience and competence.
- When delegating any task to an employee, the individual carrying out the work should be competent to carry it out, should understand what is required and should be encouraged to seek help if difficulties arise.
- Avoid criticism of colleagues unless and until you know all the facts.
- Be ready and willing to provide factual information yourself, and to give appropriate explanations, reassurance and guidance to patients at all times.
- Make the time and effort to communicate effectively.
- Display care, consideration and professional courtesy at all times.
- Keep meticulous records of all discussions, explanations and warnings given to patients, and of any significant incidents.
Further information on incident reporting and complaint handling is contained in the member pages at this back of the current Annual Review.