Complaints in the private sector

Complaints arising from independent practice are handled similarly to those in the NHS, but there are some distinctions.

There is more than one channel through which patients can make complaints about treatment, care or service in the independent healthcare sector.

As with NHS patients, it's important to make every reasonable effort to resolve complaints about private treatment at practice level (local resolution).

  • Address complaints from NHS and private patients in the same way.
  • Make sure your practice complaints procedure mirrors the one you have for NHS patients, and make this readily accessible to patients.

The Dental Complaints Service (DCS)

Patients who have not succeeded in resolving a complaint about their private dental treatment, care or service with the practice itself can escalate their complaint to the DCS. The DCS provides information about a set of universal principles for good complaint handling.

The DCS aims to resolve all complaints impartially, fairly and efficiently by working with both the patient and the dental professional.

If resolution has not been achieved, with agreement of both the patient and the dental professional, the DCS will arrange a panel meeting. The panel consists of two lay members and one dental professional. The DCS reported that in 2020, 0.5% of complaints were resolved at a panel meeting.

The DCS does not allow a dental professional to be accompanied by a representative at a panel meeting.

Connection to the GDC

The DCS was set up in 2006. It is funded by the GDC using the annual retention fee and is intended to operate at arm's length to it. However, the DCS can refer a dental professional to the GDC's fitness to practise where the concerns are thought to be sufficiently serious.

The Dental Complaints Service Review 2020 (April 2021, updated May 2021) reported that in 2020, just 1% of the enquiries received were referred to the GDC for fitness to practise concerns.

This page was correct at publication on 04/03/2022. 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.