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29th December 2014


ChoicesWhat resolution could we make to prevent complaints in 2015?

In my other job, working with practitioners who have received complaints from patients, there is a growing number of issues around informed consent and the NHS regulations. It might be an idea to make a New Year Resolution about transparency and information for patients concerning what is available under the NHS contract. We get into some bad habits when trying to communicate with people during really busy sessions when the clock is ticking.

I know, it might actually be easier to give up alcohol or watching weekend telly after an intense and tiring week! However, we owe this duty to our patients and it can prevent argument, conflict and complaint.

Believe it or not – a useful resource

If patients have a concern about what treatment they are getting these days, they are very likely to 'Google' the question. When they have a question about NHS dentistry the chances are they will end up at the NHS Choices website. It is a useful resource for practitioners to see what their patients will actually see, because conflict can occur if there is a confusing message!

It's worth looking at just some of the information they will receive.

The web address is at the end of the blog, but typically they might ask the following questions!

Can a dentist decide what I have done under the NHS?

The answer will be –

“No. You can have all treatment on the NHS that your dentist feels is clinically necessary to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy. If your dentist says you need a particular type of treatment, you should not be asked to pay for it privately. The exception is cosmetic treatment, such as teeth whitening, which is not covered by the NHS.

If you're ever offered any private treatment as part of your NHS treatment plan, your dentist should always tell you that it's optional. Separate details of private treatment and charges – usually on the same form as your NHS treatment plan – should always be given in writing before you commit to it. If it is not, query this immediately with the dentist or seek advice from the commissioning board, NHS England."

Is Private better than NHS?

The answer will be –

“Any treatment provided on the NHS has to be of the same high quality as treatment provided privately. Dentists are not allowed to refuse any treatment available on the NHS but then offer the same treatment privately. For example, a dentist cannot refuse to do a root canal treatment on the NHS but then offer it to you privately.

After discussing your treatment needs and all the options available to you with your dentist, you may choose to have some general dental treatment provided privately in addition to NHS treatment. This may be carried out at the same time as your NHS course of treatment. The dentist should discuss the options with you so that you can make an informed choice.

Your dentist should explain any risks as well as the costs of all treatment, and should also give you advice on how to keep your teeth, gums and mouth healthy.”

The message from this blog is not to get caught out trying to do something patients have a right to expect. Many people, even in the 'silver surfer' age group are technically savvie enough to find out what their rights are. If you have told them something different it is only inviting trouble and it could be considered that informed consent has not been gained for the specific treatment.

For dentists and patients: NHS Choices

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

John Shapter

Dental Specialist

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