43% of the public believe there are now more marketing campaigns by ‘No Win No Fee’ firms compared to five years ago, according to a YouGov survey of 2000 people conducted on behalf of Dental Protection.
The statistic reflects concerns from Dental Protection that these lawyers are increasingly targeting dental patients, in particular, claims relating to the diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease due to higher financial rewards.
When asked if they would take legal action against their dentist if their treatment led to problems or complications, nearly a quarter (23%) of the public surveyed said they would be likely to, while 56% said they would be unlikely to.
Dental Protection is also concerned about some law firms placing stories in the media about successful claims against dentists, and how this affects public opinion - however the YouGov survey showed that 65% of the public would not be put off going to the dentist if they read a negative story about a dentist.
Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection said: "We recognise that dentists work in a challenging environment. Our data shows that a full time general dental practitioner can now expect to receive two clinical negligence claims over a typical career.
"We continue to see a substantial number of claims relating to the diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease. Many claims relate to treatment carried out many years ago, and we are seeing ‘No Win No Fee’ lawyers increasingly target periodontal-related claims due to higher financial rewards.
"The fact that almost half of the public surveyed believe that there are now more marketing campaigns by ‘No Win No Fee’ firms reinforces this and it is worrying. We know all too well the impact that a claim can have on a dentist, and how the associated media reporting we sometimes see once a claim is settled, risks impacting on the reputation of the practice and the wider profession.
"That said, many dentists may take comfort in the fact that nearly two thirds of the public surveyed would not be put off going to the dentist if they read a negative story about one.
"Tackling the challenging environment for dentists, and the rising cost of clinical negligence, is something we feel strongly about and that is why Dental Protection is campaigning for a package of legal reforms, including the introduction of fixed recoverable costs. All too often, the legal costs associated with clinical negligence claims can outweigh the compensation a patient receives.
One such example was a straightforward dental claim which settled for £3,500 but saw legal costs claimed at £11,200.
"We know patient’s expectations are also increasing and unmet expectations can result in a complaint which if not handled effectively can become a claim. In the YouGov survey, 39% of the public admit they have higher expectations of the quality of treatment dentists provide now, compared to 10 years ago.
"We always encourage dentists to be open and honest in their communications with patients, so expectations about treatments and outcomes are managed. Where a patient expresses dissatisfaction at their treatment, dentists should take the necessary steps to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
"At Dental Protection we will continue to work with members to try and avoid a complaint occurring in the first place, and when they do receive one, help them deal with it in the most effective way to avoid the situation escalating."
Notes to editor:
The YouGov survey was undertaken on behalf of Dental Protection. It ran at the end of December 2017. The total sample size was 2056 UK adults.
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