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A disagreement about prescribing results in a complaint

Post date: 25/04/2023 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 02/05/2023

A Christmas Eve shift features complications for a foundation dentist placed on the emergency rota. 

Dr B was a foundation dentist and had been in the role for around three and a half months, supported by her educational supervisor. As was usual for the practice, there was an emergency rota in place to cover the Christmas period and Dr B had been asked to cover the Christmas Eve shift.

At 9am, Mr D called the practice complaining of toothache and was asked to attend the practice for an emergency appointment with Dr B. At 10am, Mrs D was assessed by Dr B who diagnosed periapical periodontitis at the UL5. When taking the patient’s clinical history, it transpired Mr D had been seen at an out-of-hours clinic a week earlier and was prescribed antibiotics for his symptoms.

Dr B explained that antibiotics were not clinically indicated or justified based on Mr D’s symptoms and she instead offered to access and dress the tooth. Mr D became unhappy with the advice and left the surgery abruptly. Shaken by the interaction, Dr B contacted Dental Protection for advice.

The holidays can be a stressful time for many, and patience can often be in short supply for patients and for colleagues.


How did Dental Protection support Dr B?

Dr B spoke to an experienced dentolegal consultant who had experience as an educational supervisor. Our dentolegal consultant was able to reassure Dr B and explore options for moving forward. It was agreed that the practice receptionist would contact the patient to offer a second opinion with another colleague at the practice.

Mr D attended the practice later the same day and was seen by a colleague who reached the same conclusions as Dr B had earlier. Mr D requested that the tooth was accessed and dressed and later provided an apology to Dr B for his behaviour at his initial appointment. Dr B accepted the apology and went on to complete the patient’s root canal treatment uneventfully.

Learning points

Difficult patient interactions can leave you feeling unsettled and shaken. Dental Protection can assist by talking through the options for addressing aggressive or abusive behaviour and resolving patient complaints. The holidays can be a stressful time for many, and patience can often be in short supply for patients and for colleagues.

Accurate and detailed clinical records can be invaluable when it comes to defending any patient complaint in relation to your clinical approach and decision making.

Training on how to manage difficult patient interactions can help to provide tools for de-escalation. Dental Protection provides workshops as well as eLearning on areas including difficult interactions via your digital learning platform.

A benefit of membership with Dental Protection is access to free counselling provided via a third party. This together with a wealth of wellbeing resources can help with recovery following a difficult interaction with a patient.


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