Rupert Hoppenbrouwers, Head of the DDU

We live in a consumer society where the public’s perception of what is possible and therefore demanded is constantly increasing. For dentists, the question is how to keep pace with this demand.

Experience in the retail sector suggests that high standards of service are paramount to consumers and by extension, to patients.

John Lewis department store is a prime example. It came top in the Institute of Customer Service’s (ICS) most recent Customer Satisfaction Index with a score of 90.8. Among the aspects of customer service rated by over 9,000 consumers was professionalism, quality and efficiency, ease of doing business, timeliness, problem solving and complaint handling. 

In my experience, good complaints handling and professionalism are universally appreciated qualities. While dental practices do not share many concerns with retail organisations, it is certainly important to focus on managing patient concerns promptly and constructively because the earlier a complaint can be resolved, the more likely your practice is to retain the patient’s loyalty and avoid the complaint being escalated to the Ombudsman, the Dental Complaints Service or even the GDC.

By contrast, it is also worth considering the reputational damage associated with poor complaints handling and its impact on your practice. According to a separate ICS report, 70% of people who have had a bad customer experience with a member of staff say they will warn others not to use that same organisation. A patient who is unhappy with their treatment and dissatisfied with your response may tell their friends, take their grievance to the press or even make a negligence claim if they believe they have experienced harm.

Our complaints feature on page 13 sets out the rules governing complaints procedures in the NHS and private dentistry across the UK. As DDU adviser Alison Large explains, effective complaint handling at the local resolution stage makes it possible to retain the patient’s confidence and keep control of the situation.

Elsewhere in this issue, dento-legal adviser and periodontist Leo Briggs looks at some of the reasons behind the increasing number of claims involving periodontal care and treatment and offers risk management advice. We also consider the tricky issue of cameras and recording in dental practices, and talk to two recently-qualified dentists who have chosen to work outside a general practice setting.

I hope you enjoy reading this issue of the DDU Journal.

Rupert Hoppenbrouwers

Head of the Dental Defence Union

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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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