Case study: Emergency backlog

...Mr V states he “knows for a fact” that other dental surgeries are clearing their backlogs and providing routine appointments - and he is “extremely unhappy”...

BACKGROUND

Mr V has been a patient at the dental surgery for over 15 years. He recently tried to book an appointment for a routine six-month check-up but was informed by the receptionist that due to a backlog of urgent cases they were not currently booking patients for routine appointments.

The practice has now received a written complaint from Mr V. In the letter he states that he has not been seen for a check-up since early 2020 and claims that the receptionist he spoke to on the phone was rude and dismissive. He says that he understands the pressure dental services have been under during the pandemic but finds it unacceptable that the practice cannot provide some indication of when routine appointments will be available again.

Mr V states he “knows for a fact” that other dental surgeries are clearing their backlogs and providing routine appointments. He further writes that he is “extremely unhappy” with the service being provided by the practice and would like know when he can expect routine appointments to again be available.

The practice owner contacts MDDUS for assistance in drafting a reply.

ANALYSIS/OUTCOME

An MDDUS dental adviser contacts the practice owner and advises a check of Mr V’s records to ensure that there are no pressing ongoing issues (e.g. periodontal risk) that should be urgently assessed. A letter of response is then drafted by the practice for review.

The letter states that the practice sympathises with Mr V’s frustration in the matter and that it is working hard to resume normal pre-pandemic levels of service for routine check-ups.

The letter further explains that all dental practices have had to open on an incremental basis with care subject to strict standard operating procedures to prevent spread of Covid-19.

These have included use of adequate PPE, social distancing measures and allowing fallow times following aerosol generating procedures. This has meant that limited practice resources have been prioritised towards treating day-to-day emergencies, as well as the patients waiting for completion of outstanding treatment plans and those treated on a temporary basis during the height of the crisis.

A regrettable consequence of these challenges has been a delay in providing routine check-ups. The letter further states that should Mr V wish to register at a different practice which has greater capacity, he is obviously welcome to do so.

The practice owner also expresses regret that Mr V is dissatisfied with the manner in which this position was conveyed on speaking to the receptionist. She states the practice will regard this as a training issue.

The letter concludes by stating that should Mr V decide to remain a patient at the practice he will be recalled for a routine check-up as soon as this is possible. Mr V is also informed that if he is unsatisfied with how the practice has responded to his compliant he is entitled to contact the ombudsman and an address is provided.

KEY POINTS

  • Ensure that all patients contacting the practice and requesting treatment are assessed for urgent ongoing treatment needs.
  • Responses to service complaints should provide a clear explanation behind practice policies.

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