"LOW-LEVEL" dental complaints in England are to be referred to the NHS in a bid to reduce the number of fitness to practise cases.
It is hoped minor concerns will be resolved locally by encouraging an “early conversation” between the NHS and the patient, rather than being dealt with by the General Dental Council.
The new process, known as “GDC NHS concerns handling”, follows a pilot last year involving the majority of NHS England’s regional teams. It will be managed either through performance teams or, if the patient prefers, through a formal complaint.
Only concerns deemed to be “low-level” will be handled in this way. The GDC said: “When a concern is sent to the regulator which does not significantly impact on a dental professional’s ability to practise dentistry, but falls into one or more of the referral criteria, there is an agreement that it will be referred to the NHS to resolve.”
Low-level concerns include:
- single, isolated incidents where there is not a pattern of repeated behavior
- evidence of poor communication between the dental professional and patient
- evidence of poor record keeping
- where the dental professional has failed to adequately explain dental charges.
The GDC said the new approach will allow it to focus resources on cases involving serious performance issues or investigating allegations of misconduct where a patient is harmed or is at significant risk of harm.
GDC director of fitness to practise Jonathan Green said: “Where it is appropriate, I want to encourage local resolution of concerns wherever possible. This is in the best interests of patients and the dental profession and makes the best use of the NHS performance management framework.
“Using local remediation to address performance issues where the person’s ability to carry out dentistry is not in question saves the dental professional from going through a stressful and costly fitness to practise process when it is not necessary.
“This ensures our resources are focused on cases where patients are at risk and where there is a potential case to answer at a fitness to practise hearing.”