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.

DCS advisors will try to resolve all complaints impartially, fairly and efficiently by working with both the patient and the dental professional.

The DCS is strongly in favour of local resolution and explains that in 2019 the number of enquiries being resolved locally without their formal intervention remained over 70%, whilst just over a quarter of complaints were resolved by facilitated resolution.

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.

At the moment, dental professionals are not permitted to have a DDU representative at a DCS panel meeting. Fortunately, in 2019 only 0.5% of complaints were resolved at a panel meeting.


The DCS was set up in 2006 and 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.

This page was correct at publication on 06/01/2021. 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.