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Get your priorities straight

15 July 2014
Sitting on a complaint for whatever reason is never a good idea. Dealing promptly and effectively with complaints is simply part of good practice...

A dentist contacted Dental Protection having received a letter of complaint from a patient. The patient had been a long-standing patient of the practice and regularly returned every six months for her check-up.

Unfortunately, when the original letter of complaint arrived, the dentist was about to go on holiday and rather than responding straight away with a simple acknowledgement, he chose to leave the letter in his briefcase to be dealt with on his return.

Like most of us returning from holiday, he was confronted with an enormous pile of mail and rather than spending time opening and prioritising all of it, he decided that the needs of his patients that day were more pressing.

Although he genuinely felt he was always responsive to the needs of his patients, by the time the mail was finally opened two further letters of complaint had been received from the same patient who by now was positively irate.

As it happens, the original complaint was relatively simple to deal with. The patient had arrived at the practice a little earlier than normal and finding the reception desk staff out to lunch, she went and sat in the waiting room. Unfortunately when the receptionist returned she failed to notice that anybody was sitting in the waiting room and simply assumed that this particular patient was not going to attend.

It was some 50 minutes before the mistake was recognised at the reception desk and only then because the patient asked if the dentist had been delayed. At the time, the clinician dismissed the problem by suggesting it was really the patient’s fault for not speaking up. Not surprisingly, the patient was quite upset and left the practice muttering that she would seek her dental treatment elsewhere.

The letter of complaint that arrived two days after the waiting room incident was very conciliatory and simply asked why the situation had arisen.

For obvious reasons, the failure to reply, even with a simple acknowledgement, did nothing to maintain a conciliatory mood and by the time the third letter of complaint arrived, litigation was already being threatened to obtain compensation for the wasted time.

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These case studies are based on real events and provided here as guidance. They do not constitute legal advice but are published to help members better understand how they might deal with certain situations. This is just one of the many benefits dental members enjoy as part of their subscription. 
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