Corporate dental indemnity

Corporate dentist

Multi-practice corporate groups are an increasing feature of UK dental practice. These businesses face a distinctive set of risks which require a specific kind of indemnity.

Corporate dentistry has been on the rise since the relaxation of restrictions in July 2006. Market analysts Laing and Buisson estimated that £650million was spent on primary care dentistry provided by UK corporate groups in 2009/10. That is around 11% of total primary care dentistry spending in the UK.

A dental 'corporate' is generally a multi-practice group. It may be profit-making or a not-for-profit social enterprise. Increasingly, corporate groups are being established to tender for large NHS dental contracts.

The indemnity situation for multi-practice corporate groups is different from individual privately-owned practices or partnerships. DDU business development manager Noel Waters explained: "A patient who thinks they have suffered negligence can take action against the company, rather than – or even as well as – the dental professional who treated them. The owners of multi-practice dental groups may be more remote from day-to-day decision-making in each site but they still have overall responsibility."

Dental corporates may be held liable for a range of failings, including:

  • the poor performance or conduct of individual staff and sub-contractors, particularly employees who do not usually have their own professional indemnity
  • inadequate practice systems and procedures such as patient referrals, infection control, and data protection
  • poor quality training and lack of regular assessment of staff
  • failure to properly investigate complaints or patient safety concerns.

"Corporate groups cannot afford to get bogged down by clinical negligence claims, not to mention the considerable legal expenses they incur, if they are to innovate and take the opportunities available in the rapidly-changing dental market. That is why corporate indemnity is not an option but a necessity," Noel added.

Corporate membership of the DDU includes:

  • indemnity for corporate clinical indemnity claims, including the alleged negligence of employed or contracted staff
  • indemnity for legal expenses incurred in relation to an investigation by a government or regulatory body, in defending allegations of corporate manslaughter, harassment or unlawful discrimination
  • risk management advice
  • access to DDU dento-legal advice and expertise
  • an online library of DDU guides, advice articles and case histories.
  • a free 24-hour employment law advice line.

For more information, email corporate@theddu.com or call 0800 085 0614

Case study

As this scenario shows, corporate groups are not immune from clinical negligence claims.

A dental nurse and dental associate raise concerns about a senior colleague. They claim the dentist is rude and aggressive and also represents a risk to patients because he ignores the guidelines for making referrals. The corporate group which owns the practice warns the dentist about his conduct but takes no further action.

A few months later a patient with oral cancer makes a claim against the dentist alleging that he failed to make an urgent referral to a specialist. The patient dies shortly afterwards and her family complains about the dentist to the GDC.

During the GDC investigation it emerges that concerns had been raised previously about him. The patient’s family decide to make a claim against the corporate group for failing to properly investigate and act upon earlier concerns.

This article originally appeared in the printed version of the DDU Journal March 2014 entitled "The corporate world".

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This guidance was correct at publication . 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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