Membership information 0800 561 9000
Dentolegal advice 0800 561 1010

Ask Joe

Got a burning question?

Do you need to hear from someone who understands the issues facing dental care professionals?

Joe Ingham is an experienced dentist and a dento-legal adviser with Dental Protection. He is responsible for supporting dental hygienist and dental therapist members in the UK. Joe is also a tutor at the School of Hygiene and Therapy at The Eastman.

Below is a collection of Joe’s advice that includes items previously published in the dental press. If you can’t find the answer to a particular question, please email us at enquiries@dentalprotection.org

  • Q
    I am a Dental Protection member in my own right working for a dentist who also has membership with Dental Protection. If a claim is made against us both, surely your first priority would be to look after the dentist and not me?
    +
    29 August 2014

    Not at all - if there is a conflict of interest, we simply arrange for separate representation for each member. This gives all parties access to their own dento-legal adviser and, where necessary, separate firms of solicitors and separate barristers. In one complex case a few years ago we had 11 members involved, each of whom had entirely separate representation. Each of the members concerned was satisfied that their interests were never compromised at any stage.

  • Q
    I'm a self-employed clinical dental technician and not yet a Dental Protection member. Will I have access to indemnity if I do something that results in a negligence claim when supplying work to a dentist who is not my employer?
    +
    06 January 2015

    It is highly unlikely that you would benefit from the dentist’s indemnity arrangements and you need to look at obtaining your own protection. The GDC guidance contained in Standards for the Dental Team (Standard 1.8) says 'you must have appropriate arrangements in place for patients to seek compensation if they have suffered harm'.

    Access to a full range of professional indemnity for clinical dental technicians can be obtained through Dental Protection at a very reasonable and competitive cost.

  • Q
    I am an NHS employee in a hospital clinic. My boss tells me I am insured through Crown Indemnity, as he is, and I do not need access my own professional indemnity. Is he correct?
    +
    06 January 2015

    Firstly you need to understand that NHS/Crown Indemnity is not insurance. It is a discretionary indemnity that exists primarily to protect the Trust itself, not the individuals working for the Trust. There is a widespread assumption that individuals are 'covered' automatically, but this is not necessarily the case. For a clinical dental technician or a dental nurse who is following the agreed internal procedures of the Trust, it is highly unlikely that the individual would be left to meet the cost of a negligence claim against the Trust arising from their own clinical acts and omissions. 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 access to your own professional indemnity arrangements gives you the peace of mind of knowing that you have the right to seek help, advice and financial assistance with any costs or damages involved. In addition, once you are registered a patient (or your employer or even a former employer with whom you are in dispute) could make a claim against you to the GDC. NHS/Crown Indemnity gives you no protection or support at all in this situation. Having your own Dental Protection membership means that you will have access to personal advice, guidance and support (including a 24-hour emergency helpline of experienced dento-legal advisers), and the right to request that the cost of representation by specialist solicitors and barristers (where necessary) is met on your behalf.

  • Q
    I work some of the time in practice as a clinical dental technician and the remainder as a dental technician. Do I need to make two sets of indemnity arrangements?
    +
    06 January 2015

    No. Your membership of Dental Protection as a clinical dental technician also provides access to indemnity for any acts or omissions as a dental technician.

  • Q
    I'm a dental hygienist. What if I do not agree with the dentist's treatment plan? Can I change it myself?
    +
    06 January 2015

    At present General Dental Council guidance (Principles of Dental Team Working, paragraphs 2.3 to 2.7) clearly indicates that a patient should have a full mouth assessment by a dentist and be provided with a treatment plan prior to the commencement of any treatment by a dental care professional. That treatment plan however is of course not always set in tablets of stone, and may in some situations be varied depending on a patient's needs. Be very careful that the changes you are proposing are in the patient's best interest and that your actions do not constitute an element of re-diagnosis.

    Much depends on what is written in the treatment plan and to an extent how it is written. A very prescriptive treatment plan is unlikely to allow any variation (i.e. please place MO restoration in upper right E). A more general treatment plan allows the therapist a degree of latitude that in dentistry is often helpful (i.e. please restore upper right E).

    Major changes to a treatment plan should always be approved by the dentist (i.e. where a tooth that was previously treatment planned for restoration now requires extraction). Minor changes (ie. the number of appointments or what treatment is offered at any one appointment) may well be as a result of the patient's choice and therefore have no overall impact on the treatment plan itself. If possible however, it is always best to speak to the prescribing dentist before making any alteration. Any changes (and the reasons for those changes) should always be recorded in detail in the records. If you are at all in doubt then feel free to contact Dental Protection