Dentists must encourage staff to raise concerns, new guidance says

DENTAL teams must be encouraged to raise concerns about patient safety, according to new guidance from the General Dental Council.

Standards for the Dental Team, which comes into effect on September 30, will replace the current standards guidance which was last revised in 2005 and aims to place a greater focus on patients. Under each of the principles there is now a list of what patients expect in relation to that principle.

A number of elements within the new document were created in direct response to the recommendations contained in the Francis Report into the safety of NHS care.

This prompted the GDC to create a new standard under Principle 8 which states that those who employ, manage or lead a team “must encourage and support a culture where staff can raise concerns openly and without fear of reprisal.” It also makes clear that employees must not be asked to sign “gagging clauses” preventing them from speaking out about safety concerns.

Dental care professionals must also be “open and honest at all times” and the guidance makes clear that the duty to raise concerns overrides any personal or professional loyalties.

The new standards also place greater emphasis on communication with patients, with the addition of a standalone principle on the issue. There is now greater emphasis on the need to listen to patients, to take their individual preferences into account and to encourage them to ask questions about their care. Practitioners will also be expected to be “sufficiently fluent in written and spoken English”.

Combined with the principle on consent, the GDC aims to provide greater detail on the type of information that should be provided to patients prior to the start of treatment. It includes the need to provide clear information on costs, as well as making clear to patients whether treatment is being provided under the health service, or on a private basis. There is also specific guidance on not pressurising patients into receiving private treatment if it is available on the health service and that is their preference.

Standards for the Dental Team applies to all dental care professionals and will be available online, alongside further guidance documents on more specific topics. A copy will now be sent to all registrants ahead of the September implementation.

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