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Dental Protection has considerable experience in supporting academic dentists in the UK.
The majority of clinical academic staff work within the various university dental hospitals and schools and provide specialist secondary care dental services through an honorary NHS contract. In addition the majority of clinicians also undertake research and educational duties (post and pre-graduation). These clinicians are unique amongst their professional colleagues but are not immune from complaints (or litigation) particularly if their chosen field of research is considered controversial by certain sections of the public.
As NHS employees, NHS/Crown Indemnity provides assistance in relation to clinical negligence claims but offers no protection or assistance with allegations made at the GDC, the hospital and university authorities or through scientific journals. Consequently, access to your own independent indemnity arrangements is highly recommended. Dental Protection membership is extremely valuable in this respect because you can request assistance in relation to all of these areas.
NHS/Crown Indemnity exists primarily to protect the Trust itself, not the individuals working within it. There is a widespread assumption that the individuals are ‘covered' automatically, but this is not necessarily the case. In the case of a university tutor or member of dental school staff, who is following the agreed internal procedures of the Trust, it is highly unlikely that that staff member would be left to meet the cost of a negligence claim against the Trust, arising from the any acts and omissions on their part. But the Trust - like any other employer - does have a legal right to seek ‘contribution and indemnity' from the employee personally if the employee has not followed agreed procedures, or has acted in a particularly reckless or irresponsible fashion against the employer's interests.
Having your own membership of Dental Protection gives you the peace of mind of knowing that you have the right to seek help, advice and request to indemnity against any costs and damages involved. What's more, as a registered dentist, a patient (or your employer, or even a former employer with whom you are in dispute) could make a complaint about you to the GDC. NHS/Crown indemnity gives you no protection or support at all in this situation. Having your own membership of Dental Protection means that you can have access to personal advice, guidance and support (including a 24-hour emergency helpline to experienced dento-legal advisers), and the costs of representation by specialist solicitors and barristers (where necessary) can be met on your behalf.
University and dental school staff rarely become involved in Inquests and Fatal Accident Inquiries, but it is possible, and again, NHS/Crown Indemnity does not provide any support or representation for individuals in these situations.
If we believe there is an actual or potential conflict of interest, we can arrange for separate representation of each member. This would give each member appropriate access to separate dento-legal advisers and, where necessary, separate firms of solicitors and separate barristers. In one complex case a few years ago, Dental Protection had 11 members involved, each of which had entirely separate representation. They were all satisfied that their interests were never compromised at any stage.
Individual membership of Dental Protection entitles you to advice and any other appropriate assistance in matters that may adversely affect your professional standing with regard to the practise of dentistry. This includes assistance in disciplinary matters.
Unfortunately NHS/Crown Indemnity would offer you no protection in such situations.
In addition, we have recently contested, in the High Court, the refusal by university employers to allow a (medical) academic member to be represented in an internal investigation into alleged research trial misconduct.
The High Court Judgement ruled that the presence and support of a defence organisation at such an investigation would be appropriate. This means that our medical and dental members can legally receive assistance at all stages of similar disciplinary disputes.
The judgement* is likely to have considerable implications for the whole medical and dental academic community and demonstrates one of the many benefits of on-going Dental Protection membership.
*Stevens v University of Birmingham  EWHC 2300 (QB)
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