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A dentist received a letter from her funding organisation indicating that she had been referred for a disciplinary investigation in relation to a claim for recalled emergency attendance fees. There followed a request for a significant number of record cards. Shortly thereafter, the dentist was arrested by the police and interviewed in relation to the same claim. Over 250 claims were the subject of investigation.
The dentist, who was understandably distressed, was supported by Dental Protection and it transpired following discussions with her that she had taken advice from some colleagues previously with regard to when a fee could or could not be claimed. The fees related to the emergency recall attendance to a practice for an out-of-hours emergency.
Unfortunately the advice, even though well-intentioned, was incorrect and the dentist had acted in good faith on this advice for a period of time. The dentist was assisted by a lawyer appointed by Dental Protection at the police interviews and explained the situation fully.
It was clear that while erroneous claims had been made in some cases, there had been no intent to defraud. Many of the errors indeed could be put down to administrative errors. Fortunately, the police did not continue to pursue the matter. The disciplinary investigation was also subsequently abandoned on the basis that the practitioner co-operated fully with the criminal investigation and was open and frank with her response to the authority.
The practitioner was able to reassure the authority that the administration in the practice had been tightened up to reduce the prospect of such errors occurring in the future. The whole process took over a year to resolve and during this time the practitioner had lived with the constant threat of criminal and disciplinary proceedings. The practitioner was grateful for the support of Dental Protection over this time.
Advice from some colleagues, even though well-intentioned, may be worth reviewing with a dento-legal adviser from Dental Protection, particularly when it involves interpretation of a dental contract
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 members enjoy as part of their subscription.
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