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09th September 2016

Handling Complaints Well – Good for Business!

Complaints officeIt is part of your responsibility as a dental professional to deal properly and professionally with complaints (GDC Standards). However, it is not just a professional obligation as well-handled complaints can actually be good for business!

Patients talk – make sure they are saying the right things

A successful dental practice not only needs to retain the loyalty of existing patients but also relies on a steady flow of new patients. The source of these new patients varies but often involves word of mouth and social media. There is a very strong relationship between patient satisfaction and patient loyalty. Several studies have shown that dissatisfied patients will tell up to 11 people on average about their experience. This contrasts strongly with the fact that satisfied and happy patients only tell 5 people on average about their dental experience. More importantly for every complaint there are a significant number of patients who do not express their level of dissatisfaction and simply leave the practice.

Patients want to be heard

In addition, regulators such as NHS England, Care Quality Commission, General Dental Council and Healthwatch may be alerted or become aware of complaints and this will lead to further negativity and stress for the practice. There will of course be situations where local resolution is not always possible and matters will be escalated so the patient can and quite rightly have a fair hearing.

In-house resolution is always a priority and early responses to patient complaints are vital. In the majority of cases, patients simply want to be heard and for their concerns to be taken seriously. The initial response from staff members will play a pivotal role in the final outcome of the complaint so practices would be wise to invest in appropriate training and the use of regular role play can be very beneficial. Auditing of complaints will not only ensure that the complaint was handled appropriately but can be a very useful tool in identifying further training needs.

Make it easy to complain

Patients must be aware of how to raise concerns and this information must be displayed in a prominent position in the practice as well as on leaflets and websites. If patients are unsure about the process then the opportunity to resolve matters in-house may be lost.

Whilst our initial response to receiving a patient complaint may create anxiety, fear or even anger it is important to stay calm and have confidence in a well organised and responsive complaints handling system. Ignore at your peril!

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

Raj Majithia

Dental Specialist M.Clin.Dent, FFGDP, BDS, LDSRCS, MJDF (UK), DPDS

Raj is in General Dental Practice in London. His other current posts are Associate Dean of Postgraduate Dentistry at Health Education England – London where he is responsible for remediation of dentists in difficulty, quality assurance of Dental Foundation training practices and assessment of Dental Foundation equivalence for overseas qualified dentists. Raj has been the Crisis Management in Medical Emergencies Tutor and Postgraduate Dental Tutor at Northwick Park Dental Education Centre and West Middlesex Hospital.

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