Quality assurance and patient safety

Dental practices should have a quality assurance system in place in order to:

  • monitor and improve services
  • help the practice work more efficiently
  • maintain and improve standards of patient care and safety
  • reduce the kinds of incident that can lead to a complaint or claim.

Quality assurance covers all areas of dental practice, and is a requirement of the NHS General Dental Services contracts, as well as the different regulatory bodies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What is needed for quality assurance?

Quality assurance requires an organisational culture where:

  • openness and participation are encouraged
  • education and research are valued
  • people learn from mistakes
  • good practice is freely shared.

It should be consistent, so that patients can be confident that they will always be treated safely and appropriately.

Quality assurance also requires effective procedures and policies for:

  • infection control
  • safeguarding children and vulnerable adults
  • dental radiography
  • safety of patients, staff and the wider public
  • evidence-based practice in line with relevant guidance
  • data protection
  • employment, training and development
  • patient information and involvement
  • fair and accessible care
  • investigating and learning from complaints
  • raising concerns 
  • clinical audit and peer review.

Your practice's policies and procedures should reflect authoritative national guidance from organisations such as the General Dental Council (GDC), the British Dental Association (BDA), the Faculties of Dental Surgery and General Dental Practice at the Royal Colleges, the specialist societies and the UK Departments of Health.

Achieving effective quality assurance

  • Review your practice policies and procedures to check that they are fit for purpose. Make sure you are meeting your legal obligations, for example infection control, IRMER, data protection, anti-discrimination and child protection.
  • Participate in regular clinical audits and reviews to ensure patient safety and best practice.
  • Hold significant event audits to learn from things that have gone wrong. Highlight examples of good practice.
  • Give staff members the opportunity to contribute ideas and raise concerns. Ask them to highlight areas where problems commonly arise, such as referrals or professional development.
  • Review your training needs and those of your employees and/or team members.
  • Give patients the opportunity to provide feedback. Discuss and act on the findings of patient satisfaction surveys in your practice.

This guidance was correct at publication 16/07/2018. It 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.

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