Reviewed and updated by Xanthoula Maitou, Dentolegal Consultant at Dental Protection
The way we have worked has changed since the pandemic and it is different to what it used to be.
After March 2020 we have been working from home and, in some ways, this had its benefits. Due to the technological advancements, Dental Protection, like many other businesses, has transitioned smoothly to remote working.
However, the impact of COVID-19 has been huge for our practising colleagues working in primary and secondary care that we advise, assist and support. This in turn has affected how we work, and the priority for us is to ensure we are up to date and alert to the fast-evolving shape and face of dentistry.
Since October 2021 we have adopted a ‘hybrid’ approach; a location-flexible arrangement, allowing us to combine onsite and offsite work dependent on the activity taking place.
Typically therefore, my day starts around 8am and involves the following activities:
Responding to emails from members
Having a tidy inbox helps when I start my working day, so I highlight or attend to urgent emails first, before prioritising the work and activities that I need to complete for the day. There will often be several meetings booked in a working day, with either my colleagues or with external stakeholders, and so time management is an important part of handling and juggling my day.
It is common for a member to have contacted Dental Protection overnight or first thing in the morning. I am mindful that the members we assist may start their day early in practice and occasionally they will need advice prior to an appointment later that day.
Typical queries on the dentolegal advice line
Most days, I am available to members over the phone, where they can raise any current or potential dentolegal issues and request advice on how to deal with them. The nature of the calls received can vary significantly, but some common dentolegal questions are:
'The police have requested access to a patient’s dental records – am I allowed to share them?'
'The parents of a child patient are divorced and have different wishes regarding treatment – who has decision-making responsibility in this scenario?'
'I have concerns about a colleague’s behaviour – how and where should I raise these?'
'I am seeing a patient later who has previously complained about an aspect of their care – how should I deal with this?'
'I have received a complaint – how should I respond and what can I do to prevent it from escalating into a legal case?'
'I have received documents from a solicitor indicating that they are bringing a claim of clinical negligence against me. What do I need to do next?'
I always recommend that our members call our advice line to discuss something that may be on their mind. It can be reassuring to speak to someone who understands the challenges you are facing and bouncing it off a dentolegal consultant can help a person see clarity on the issue.
Also, the added benefit is that we may be able to help prevent the problem from escalating.
I do enjoy this aspect of the day as it often brings about a challenging query, and I get to speak to fellow dentists, or other members of the extended dental team, and help ease the pressure of everyday clinical practice for them. Often the query can be resolved immediately, but occasionally, I would need to consult with another colleague from a different department or I would need to investigate further and so will invite the member to await a more formal and written response.
Supporting members through investigations
Several of the members we are supporting, will have a matter being considered and investigated by our regulator or have a case that is escalating, with other regulatory bodies getting involved. Some other members have an ongoing legal matter. Most days, my colleagues and I will have a catch up or team discussion about active cases, especially those that are challenging and require careful or strategic planning, whether these are regulatory matters, complaints or claims that. We will discuss outcomes from similar cases and decide how we can best support the member through the process.
A dentist may be facing an allegation of poor patient communication and we will discuss how this could be mitigated through personal development. This sometimes needs to be more carefully handled with a dentist who may have ceased practising for a while or is coming to the end of their career, as they may have become disengaged or dissociated from the process.
As dentolegal consultants we are pleased to offer guidance and support to our members on this important aspect of their personal learning, and we can help them plan targeted remediation using our in-house team of experienced dentists.
Carrying out clinical reviews on cases
I offer clinical input and advice on cases, providing opinion on whether there has been a breach of duty in the care provided and if this has resulted in harm to the patient. I liaise closely with our in-house lawyers to create a strategy going forward that will protect our members’ interests. Complaints, Claims or Regulatory investigations can be enormously stressful and so, a large part of my day is offering ongoing reassurance or support to our members who are professionally challenged.
Risk Management Support
At the heart of our business is a philosophy supporting safe practice helping our members to understand how they can avoid problems in the first place. I write articles and case studies to demonstrate learning or changes, in the hope this will reduce our members’ stress and risks in practice. I am also involved in training days for our new dental graduates and the delivery of webinars for the wider dental team. In addition, I help to provide content for our social medial channels and our Instagram page.
At the time of writing, this is fast-changing, and no two days are the same.
This is one of the reasons why I find my role as a Dentolegal Consultant so rewarding, along with the satisfaction, and sense of purpose I feel from supporting my colleagues in the dental profession.