Caring for patients midway through a course of treatment

What should you do when patients ask you to continue treatment that was started elsewhere?

With the direct-to-consumer orthodontic company Smile Direct club announcing it is winding down its global operations and telling patients midway through treatment to contact a local dentist for support, it's important to know how to guide people approaching you for advice.

A similar scenario commonly arises when patients have had treatment abroad. So what should you do if patients ask you for follow-up care or treatment?

The basic principles are the same no matter what treatment is being provided or where the patient accessed care. You should carry out your own assessment of the patient and explain your findings in language and terms the patient can understand. Inform them of their current condition and advise on the treatment options.

If the patient had previously approached you and you had warned against getting the treatment they have started, you need to decide if this demonstrates a lack of trust in you and whether you can treat the patient in these circumstances. Contact the DDU for advice if this happens.

Communicate with previous practice

With patient consent, you may wish to contact the previous dentist or dental care professional if you need more details or clarification about care provided. Details of any verbal communication should be accurately noted in the patient's records. If necessary, consider requesting copies of the records from the previous dental professional.

However, requesting or obtaining dental records and information about treatment provided by a firm in administration or outside the UK may be problematic.

The benefit of seeking previous records and information requires careful assessment on an individual patient basis, especially if you consider the patient needs urgent or emergency dental care.

Options for treatment

You may need to refer to an appropriate colleague in primary or secondary care, if you consider this would be in the patient's best interests, or if you consider any aspect of the patient's care to be outside your scope of practice or competence (as indicated by GDC Standard 6.3.3).

If the patient raises concerns about previous care, advise them that these should be directed to the dental professional or organisation who provided that care.

While questions or queries from the patient regarding your findings should be answered honestly, avoid making any subjective and inflammatory comments about care provided previously by other dental professionals.

Contact our dento-legal advisers for individual advice about continuing treatment started elsewhere.

This page was correct at publication on 11/12/2023. 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.