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Complaints Handling

Every dental practice is required to have a complaints procedure. Here’s what you need to know

The Dental Council Code of Practice relating to Professional Behaviour and Ethical Conduct which was produced in February 2012 requires each dental practice to have a complaints procedure:

5.4 We expect your practice to have a complaints procedure on public display which clearly outlines how to make a complaint; and how your practice would deal with it. This procedure should identify by name the person who deals with patient complaints.

Click here for our draft complaints procedure.

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 (e.g. to the Dental Council or to solicitors) when they don’t realise that an informal, effective resolution system is available within the practice, and/or when they don’t have any confidence that their complaint will be taken seriously and resolved effectively direct with the practice, or the dentist involved.

Invite patients to let you know if they are not happy with any aspect of the care, treatment or service they have received from you. 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.

Past experience has shown that a patient whose concern is resolved can go on to become one of the practitioner’s greatest supporters.

Dental Protection supports the initiative taken by the Irish Dental Association to set up the Dental Complaints Resolution Service (DCRS). This can be used when local resolution has not resolved a complaint; it’s effectively the second stage of the complaints procedure and it is advantageous for patients and dentists alike to have a complaints resolution system which will assist both parties in resolving the issue without the need to involve the Dental Council or litigation.

The DCRS provides a trained facilitator to liaise with the dentist and the patient to seek a resolution to the problem on a voluntary basis. Should the facilitator be unable to broker an agreement, it will be also possible then to convene a panel comprising members of the public and dentists to offer further assistance to the parties.

As with any profession there may be times when treatment does not go entirely to plan and patients may raise concerns. Patients will be reassured that any practitioner who takes part in the DCRS is committed to meeting patient expectations and resolving concerns locally and directly with the patient on the few occasions when this does not occur. Patients may also be reassured that on the rare occasions when it is not possible to resolve their concerns in-house, further assistance is available to the patient and the dentist through this scheme.

Click here for our dental advice booklet on complaints handling.

Click here for our key steps in complaints handling.