THIS week on 1 March new GDC guidance on ethical advertising comes into effect with some very detailed requirements on how dental practices promote their services.
Among new requirements set out in Principles of Ethical Advertising is a checklist of information that most be displayed in practice websites. All dental professionals providing care mentioned on the site must display their GDC number, their professional qualification and the country where it was attained as in accordance with European guidance. In addition dental practice websites must display:
- the name and geographic address at which the dental service is established
- contact details of the dental service, including e-mail address and telephone number
- the GDC’s address and other contact details, or a link to the GDC website
- details of the practice’s complaints procedure and information of who patients may contact if they are not satisfied with the response (namely the relevant NHS body for NHS treatment and the Dental Complaints Service for private treatment)
- the date the website was last updated.
This information must be updated regularly. The guidance also states: "A dental practice website must not display information comparing the skills or qualifications of any dental professional providing any service with the skills and qualifications of other dental professionals."
The guidance also addresses practice advertising, stating that dentists must ensure that any information uses clear language that patients can understand and all claims are backed up by facts. It also says that practices should "avoid statements or claims intended or likely to create an unjustified expectation about the results you can achieve."
In regard to specialist titles the guidance states: "Only dentists who are on a GDC specialist list may use the title 'Specialist' or describe themselves as a 'specialist in….' Dentists who are not on a GDC specialist list should not use titles which may imply specialist status such as Orthodontist, Periodontist, Endodontist etc.
"Registrants who are not on a specialist list should not describe themselves as 'specialising in…' a particular form of treatment but may use the terms 'special interest in..', 'experienced in..' or 'practice limited to..'."
The guidance adds that no specialist lists exist for dental care professionals, and DCPs should avoid misleading patients by using titles such as 'Smile specialist' or 'Denture specialist'.
The GDC makes clear that the onus is on dental professionals to be honest in their presentation of skills and qualifications. It states: "If you make misleading claims, you may have to justify your decisions to the GDC through our fitness to practise procedures."