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Complaints Handling

Key steps for complaints handing in Ireland...

In Ireland, where the level of litigation and the potential for Dental Council involvement is increasing, it is essential to have effective in-house complaints procedures and to make sure that patients are aware of their existence. Patients tend to take their complaints down formal channels (for example, to the Dental Council or to solicitors) when they don’t realise that an informal, effective resolution system is available within the practice, or when they don’t have any confidence that their complaint will be taken seriously by the practice.

Invite patients to let you know if they are not happy with any aspect of the care, treatment or service they have received. It is sometimes a good idea to have a single, named person who is responsible for patient satisfaction and customer care in all its forms – this might include patient feedback (survey) exercises as well as dealing with complaints. Give this person a high profile in your practice so that patients will have the confidence to contact this person first, before considering any escalation of their complaint to bodies outside the practice.

The key to complaints handling is a flexibility of approach. The complaints handling process should adapt to the needs of a patient and not the other way round. Although there is no single way to handle a complaint, there are some key steps that should always be considered:

  • 1. Preparation and training
  • 2. Identifying complaints
  • 3. Accepting complaints
  • 4. Obtaining the views of all the parties involved
  • 5. Investigating fully
  • 6. Resolving the dissatisfaction
  • 7. Responding sympathetically
  • 8. Following-up
  • 9. Learning from the problem
  • 10. Communicating