Dental Director Raj Rattan shares his journey with Dental Protection, and what the organisation offers its members
What attracted you to working for Dental Protection?
I was first introduced to Dental Protection when I was a student. I was the editor of an in-house publication at University College Hospital, London and Dental Protection was one of our advertisers. I have been a Dental Protection member throughout my career. I always believed dentistry offered many career opportunities and I have been fortunate enough to have held several different posts in my career.
I have always had an interest in law, and it seemed an ideal opportunity to engage with the profession in a positive and constructive way.
I was fortunate enough to be offered a role as a dentolegal adviser back in 1992 and worked one day a week for some 23 years before being appointed to my current role. My working week was mostly clinical practice, dentolegal work and work in other sectors, including education.
It’s been an absolute privilege to be involved with Dental Protection and to support our members for so many years. We are an internationally respected organisation and I work with a great team of people – and that is an absolute joy. We’ve got a very strong future ahead of us and a committed team that I am excited to continue working with to build on our existing strengths.
Do you still work in clinical practice?
I do occasional sessions in clinical practice. I enjoy clinical dentistry and I have known my patients for a long time. It is important for me to maintain that commitment.
What challenges has the profession seen over the last 25 years?
Today’s climate is very different from when I first started working at Dental Protection as a part-time dentolegal adviser in the 1990s.
The dentolegal climate was relatively benign in those days. Much has changed over the years and dentists qualifying today are more concerned than ever. Many are fearful of the challenges they face and litigation.
It is something I first observed in the early 2000s when I ran a foundation training scheme and the trend has continued ever since. I think patients are more aware of their rights, the conditions under which dentists work create stress, and the burden of regulation has increased, too. There are also commercial pressures as dentists try to manage the delivery of quality care. This is particularly challenging for those who are limited to a state-funded system constrained by defined budgets.
There have been significant changes in the way people communicate, particularly with the introduction of social media, and that has changed the landscape considerably. Business pressures have intensified over the years, especially for those general practitioners that are practice owners. We know from our own research that many experience high levels of stress and burnout, and this is a significant concern within the profession.
Dental Protection education programmes, workshops, webinars and e-learning modules aim to address these challenges, making sure our risk management programmes reflect the world as it is today – and the issues members face.
How does Dental Protection engage with its members?
We are in constant contact with members. I regularly meet members at conferences and events, and maintain strong relationships with professional bodies and associations. We also run surveys on a regular basis to gauge members’ thoughts and opinions on issues that affect them.
Most of the Dental Protection team are also practising clinicians and we also have specialists in our team. Their individual and collective expertise and experience allows us to remain abreast of professional developments in the clinical, educational and political arenas. This information gives us a better understanding of the challenges and risks our members face.
How does Dental Protection represent members on professional issues?
Dental Protection regularly engages with key stakeholders within the profession and numerous other professional organisations and societies.
We contribute to the wider professional agenda by responding to consultations, offering opinions and advice at appropriate times, and maintaining strong and valuable relationships with other organisations – nationally and internationally.
When changes to legislation or regulation affecting the profession are proposed, we always make sure we participate fully in consultations and discussions around the proposed changes.
Tell us about the dentists working at Dental Protection
The knowledge and experience that the dentists working at Dental Protection bring is invaluable, and they certainly deliver a fantastic service to members. The team includes dentists with different expertise, such as periodontology, oral surgery and endodontics.
Some of the dentists at Dental Protection work on a part-time basis. Many continue to practise or have other roles within the profession, such as teaching posts. Being practising clinicians means they have first-hand knowledge and experience of the challenges members face. By being at the sharp end, so to speak, their combined clinical and dentolegal experience also makes them ideally placed to understand the challenges our members face.
Dentolegal consultants communicate closely with each other to ensure we are informed of clinical trends in various specialties and can manage the clinical aspects of cases together as a team.
How can medical defence organisations help ensure patient safety?
Risk management is one of the most effective strategies to ensure patient safety, as it prevents adverse events and helps to control incidence of human error. Dental Protection has been in the market for a very long time and our experience as one of the largest indemnity providers informs our thinking. It also feeds into our educational programmes, lectures and workshops.
We also look forward and consider emergent trends. This allows us to adopt a proactive approach to risk management to stave off future threats.