An aggressive patient

A member came to the DDU for advice and support when a patient became abusive towards practice staff.

Earn CPD by reading this dilemma and the sidebar resources and then taking the quiz linked below.

The scene

The DDU received a call from a practice principal member in Scotland, who explained that there had recently been a changeover of dentists in the practice. When one patient was told this at reception, they became upset at not being able to see their regular dentist, and started shouting and being verbally abusive towards staff members. The patient then left the practice without seeing the new dentist.

Our member called for advice about the situation and to find out if the patient could be de-registered.

DDU advice

The DDU adviser asked if the practice had a zero-tolerance policy for aggressive and abusive behaviour. The member confirmed they did, and that this was displayed at the reception desk.

Under the terms of the policy, the practice could investigate, interview staff, gather evidence and make records in relation to any behaviour from patients that was considered to have breached the policy. If the patient was found to have breached the policy, the practice could write to the patient and tell them they would no longer be seen.

In Scotland, NHS patients are registered with a dental practice and the DDU adviser gave the following advice.

  • If the police were called and the practice had a police incident number, the patient could be de-registered immediately. The practice should inform the Health Board of this.
  • Otherwise, to de-register the patient, the dentist should give the patient three months' notice. The dentist with whom the patient was registered should complete form GP200 and send it to the Health Board. Access for urgent care would need to be provided during the notice period.
  • If the patient indicated they were not returning to the practice, registration would cease when they attended and registered with another practice.

The DDU adviser mentioned that it would be wise to offer support to staff members and to advise them on how to deal with any further contact from the patient.

The outcome

Our member was advised how to thoroughly investigate and make an appropriate decision on whether the thresholds for the zero-tolerance policy and deregistration had been reached.

Patients who have been seeing a dentist for a long time can find it difficult to adjust to sudden changes. As such, the practice also considered how best to communicate a changeover of staff to patients in the future.

CPD for members

If you've read this article and the other links in the sidebar, you'll be ready to complete our assessment and get 45 minutes of verifiable CPD.

To get your verifiable CPD certificate you'll need to score at least 80%. You will also need to add your name, DDU membership and GDC registration number so that it's included on your certificate.

Click here to take the CPD quiz.

Not a member?

Join us today and become part of the DDU. We provide reassurance and peace of mind to UK dental professionals.

To get your verifiable CPD certificate, simply provide your contact details when asked and then score at least 80%. One of our dental liaison managers will then get in touch to discuss your requirements and provide you a quote for DDU membership.

This page was correct at publication on 10/11/2022. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.