Dealing with the emotional impact of a claim

Facing a claim for clinical negligence can cause a lot of stress and worry, so it's important to know that support is available - and where to find it.

Many DDU members who have gone through a claim tell us that coping with personal feelings is perhaps the most difficult part of the process.

As a 'dentists for dentists' organisation led and staffed by dental professionals with direct experience of the rigours and pressures of clinical practice, we understand the toll it can take.

It's quite normal to feel worried or depressed when faced with a claim, and it's important you're aware of this and get the support you need.

If you have to face the stress of a claim, we offer the following advice.

  • As soon as you receive a claim, contact the DDU for help. See the link in the sidebar for our guide on what to do if you receive a claim. 
  • Try to let go of negative emotions, rather than hold them in. This might be easier said than done; it is common and understandable to feel anger, shame, disillusionment and disappointment when faced with a claim.
  • Stress, worry and other emotions may interfere with work, sleep and home life. This is natural, and you should try to make allowances for it.
  • Try to maintain a sense of proportion and perspective, which might help you handle the stress of a claim.
  • It may be helpful to find a trusted colleague to share feelings with. Without breaching confidentiality, let others such as close family and friends know what you're going through, so they can offer help and emotional support.
  • Write an account of your role as soon as possible after any adverse incident. This account can help if a complaint or claim for clinical negligence is made at a later stage, and many members find it to be reassuring.
  • You can ask for a progress report from us whenever you want it. Keeping up to date about your claim can help you to keep things in perspective.

Other sources of support

Your doctor, local occupational health and your Local Dental Committee should be able to help, and you may also wish to tell a senior colleague.

You could also think about contacting your professional association, or the Dentists' Health Support Trust, which can provide general information and advice to dental professionals encountering health problems.

Wellbeing Support for the Dental Team also provides resources for self-care, including the range of organisations available.

We've also published a more comprehensive list of sources of our support.

Additionally, the DDU offers unlimited and free access to a 24/7/365 confidential health and wellbeing helpline. To access this free service, DDU members can call 0330 678 1223.

Take care to protect patient confidentiality when speaking to others about your case.

This page was correct at publication on 24/08/2022. 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.


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