Private dental patients get better rightsGeneral Dental Council set up complaints service

24 May 2006

Which? has welcomed a new service which will make it easier for patients to complain about private dental care.

The independent Dental Complaints Service - set up by the General Dental Council (GDC) - will deal with issues such as poor treatment and diagnosis, appointment mistakes, delays and professionals giving misleading or inaccurate advice.

More people than ever are having private dental treatment. But while NHS patients can use the NHS complaints process, private patients have had limited options if they wanted to lodge a grievance.

Complaints against dentists

This new service will allow them to make complaints against dentists, dental hygienists and dental therapists. In the future it will extend to technicians and nurses on the GDC register.

Which? health campaigner Sara Apps said: 'For many years Which? has highlighted how difficult it is for people who have private dental treatment to get redress when something goes wrong. Most private patients have had little choice but to go to court to get their complaint dealt with properly.'

Private patients will be encouraged to use the practice's own complaints procedure first, but advisers from the new service will step in if a dispute remains unresolved. If there's till no solution, the complaint will go to a regional panel - two members of the public and one dental professional volunteer.

Apology and refund

The panel will be able to recommend that a patient receives an apology, a refund of fees or a contribution towards remedial treatment. It can also recommend improvements to the dental practice or how the practitioner works, to stop the problem happening again.

Although the service has no formal power to enforce its recommendations, it expects that 'they will almost always be followed'.

The GDC said it was preparing to receive between 2,000 and 4,000 complaints a year and it hopes around 80 per cent of those will be dealt with by advisers without the need to go to a regional panel.