David Hartoch describes a typical day working as a dentolegal consultant at Dental Protection.
07.30 Arrive in the office
I arrive at our office in the centre of Leeds at around 07.30. I’ll often have phone calls with members at the start of the day: for example, I might discuss a patient complaint with a dentist before they see patients. I’ll then catch up with emails that have been sent overnight. Work-related issues can often play on dentists’ minds in the evenings, outside surgery hours, so I’ll respond to any emails of this nature.
08.30 Team meeting
At 08.30 we have a team meeting to review caseloads and discuss strategies. For a GDC case where the dentist is facing an allegation of poor record keeping, we might discuss how this could be mitigated through personal development. Whilst practitioners who are recently qualified have an up to date understanding of professional development, it is not unusual for more senior dentists to have become slightly dissociated from the process. We are pleased to be able to offer guidance and support to members regarding their personal development plans and targeted remediation, using our own dedicated in-house team of dentists and educational department.
09.00 – 11.00 Dentolegal advice line
I’ll be available for calls from the dentolegal advice line for a few hours in the morning. This advice line is available for all members to call with any dentolegal issue or if the member needs advice on how to deal with a problem. I would suggest that if you are in doubt, give us a call. We would much rather speak to members about a problem or concern early on as we may be able to prevent it escalating. It can be reassuring to speak to someone who understands the challenges you are facing.
Sometimes I’m able to give advice directly on the phone, but on other occasions, I’ll need to arrange a follow-up call with the member. The calls we receive can vary significantly – from patient complaints to completing police reports. This is one of the most rewarding parts of the job, as I get to speak to fellow dentists and help them with the issues that are affecting them.
11.00 – 13.00 Casework
I’m often working on multiple cases at any one time. I take responsibility for assisting members with advice and dealing with patient complaints. More complex concerns, such as a referral to the GDC or a claim alleging clinical negligence, are progressed using a multidisciplinary approach. In such circumstances, my role is to liaise with the member as a colleague and to assist our experienced team of regulatory and claims lawyers with the clinical aspects of any allegations. As a case progresses, I might find that I need to speak to senior barristers, and it is this aspect of the role that I find the most intellectually stimulating.
13.00 – 14.00 Telephone catch up with dentists
Lunchtime is a busy time as dentists often want to discuss matters while on their lunch break, and I’ll often take a couple of calls relating to cases I may be working on.
14.00 – 14.45 Lunch!
A chance to grab a bite to eat and catch up on the day’s news.
14.45 – 15.30 International meeting
Although my role is focused on assisting members in the UK, many of my colleagues assist members in other countries around the world. We regularly meet to discuss the common themes and trends that are affecting dentists worldwide, which gives us all a useful insight into any upcoming problems. For example, the 2015 change in case law following Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board mimics the case of Rogers v Whittaker that happened in Australia a number of years ago. The concept of ‘the specific patient’ was therefore not new to us.
15.30 – 16.30 Education meeting
I’ll meet with the education team to review existing content or to contribute to new workshops or webinars. Our education content is written and designed by experts within the organisation, which is regularly reviewed to ensure that these resources remain relevant and are meeting members’ needs. For example, we’re increasingly seeing burnout as an issue amongst dentists, which has an impact on patient care, so we have recently launched a new workshop to address the issue.
16.30 – 17.30 Catch up
I’ll end my day catching up on emails, responding to colleagues’ queries and preparing for upcoming events. For example, the following day I could be running a foundation dentist study day or supporting a member at a GDC hearing.
In truth, no two days are exactly the same, and this variety, along with the satisfaction I get from supporting my colleagues in the dental profession, is why I find my role as a dentolegal consultant to be so rewarding.