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An allegation of dishonesty

28 October 2021

Dental Protection assist on a complicated case about alleged misconduct within a dental practice. By Ravi Gupta, Lead Legal Adviser at Dental Protection

Dr S entered negotiations to purchase a dental practice from Dr N, who was terminally ill. After lengthy negotiations, Dr S decided against buying the practice and Dr N passed away shortly after that. Dr N’s widow brought a complaint against Dr S, alleging that he had:

(i) represented to act on behalf of Dr N;
(ii) claimed on social media that he was the business owner of the practice;
(iii) advertised Dr N’s number on his own website; and
(iv) took payment directly from a patient that he was not entitled to.

The Dental Council alleged that Dr S’s conduct was inappropriate, misleading and dishonest. 

Dr S contacted Dental Protection and a multidisciplinary team of legal advisers and dentolegal consultants was put in place to assist. In our response on Dr S’s behalf, we admitted some of the allegations on the basis that Dr S had simply failed to update his social media accounts, but the allegations in respect of dishonesty were vehemently denied. Given the seriousness of the allegations and the factual dispute between Dr S and Mrs N, the Dental Council referred the matter for a further hearing a month later.

After lengthy cross-examination of the Dental Council witnesses, and indeed Dr S, the hearing found the majority of the facts proved but did not determine that they amounted to misconduct. It determined that overall, Dr S’s conduct “whilst unfortunate, inattentive, and careless, cannot be said to reach the threshold for misconduct”.

Had the allegations been found proved it was likely that Dr S would have been erased from the dental register. We were successful in arguing that he was not dishonest and that misconduct could not be found. 

How Dental Protection assisted

Dr S provided us with voluminous documentation and much of the case required a careful forensic analysis of the material to reconstruct the original events, which took place three years before. Due to the passage of time, Dr S could not recall details of many of the key facts that would have assisted in his defence. Further, he was supported by a number of professionals at the time of purchasing the practice whom he relied on heavily and therefore had a lack of understanding of some of the key issues.  

This case required multiple meetings with Dr S, the result of which was a lengthy and detailed witness statement to assist him giving evidence. Dr S commented that this provided him with real focus and the ability to provide a response in cross-examination to challenging questions put to him by the prosecution barrister. Without the detailed forensic review of all the material in this case, and having to piece together information from a variety of sources, there was a real risk that Dr S could have appeared evasive and, in the worst case, dishonest before the hearing.

Dr S was extremely pleased with the outcome, which in real terms meant he does not have any adverse fitness to practise history. There are no restrictions on his practice and he was able to return to his profession without any adverse findings. Dr S expressed his gratitude to the team at Dental Protection for helping him achieve this outcome and commented that it could not have been achieved without our support.

Learning points 

•  A careful and thorough forensic review of the documents helped reconstruct for Dr S events that occurred some five years prior.

•  We were only able to rebut the allegation regarding financial wrongdoing having carefully traced the money payments at the practice. This was made more difficult given that there was no written agreement in place to ascertain the financial split between Dr S and Dr N.

•  Further, the patient at the centre of one of the allegations had attended three different practices for treatment, which made apportioning the fees collected for treatment extremely challenging. Given that this was one of the more serious allegations faced by Dr S, we spent considerable time carrying out this exercise to establish that there was no financial gain and that Dr S was entitled to the money he took directly from the patient.
One of Dental Protection’s dentolegal consultants looks at how we can help manage complaints on your behalf, here

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 Protection members enjoy as part of their subscription. 
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