What's in a name?

A patient complained when her dental practice failed to address her by her preferred name.

The scene

An unusual complaint from a patient led a general dental practice to review its computerised records system.

The patient had recently divorced and had reverted to her maiden name. She complained after she received a fee note by post, made out in her married name. The patient wrote an angry letter to say that she had already told the receptionist at her last visit about her name change. She threatened to report the practice to the Information Commissioners Office for failing to keep accurate and up to date information.

The practice principal rang the DDU advice line for assistance.

DDU advice

The DDU adviser discussed with the dentist both how to manage the patient's complaint and how the error might have arisen. As a first step, he advised that the practice should amend all the patient's records immediately and ensure the changes made to computerised records had been saved.

Addressing the patient's complaint, he advised that the practice consider offering the patient a sincere apology for the error and reassurance that the computer records had been amended to reflect her desired salutation and name.

The error may have stemmed initially from human error. As a precaution against a repeat of the mistake in future, the practice could also consider providing further staff training. The principal could then let the patient know that following receipt of her complaint, training had been provided to everyone in the practice to reinforce the importance of keeping patient information up to date.


The practice followed the DDU advice and the patient responded to say that she was reassured that the error would not happen again to her or to other patients.

This page was correct at publication on 22/05/2017. 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.