Clearer guidance for Coroners should mean fewer manslaughter investigations, DDU says

There should be clearer guidance for Coroners, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to prevent dentists being needlessly put through a gross negligence manslaughter investigation, the Dental Defence Union (DDU) said today.

In its written submission to the rapid review by Sir Norman Williams into gross negligence manslaughter (GNM) in healthcare, the MDU, the parent company of the DDU, explained that while manslaughter investigations more commonly involve doctors, the DDU has also supported dentists with investigations.

John Makin, Head of the DDU, said:

"There should be far fewer investigations and prosecutions of healthcare practitioners for GNM. It should be about identifying and prosecuting only those cases that are the dental equivalent of deliberately driving down the motorway on the wrong side.

"Coroners are currently responsible for passing most cases to the police for investigation and they should get greater support and clearer guidance about the law. There should be a far more robust referral process, to help to achieve greater consistency and clarity and ensure only appropriate cases are investigated.

"In Scotland we are not aware of a case where a clinician has been successfully prosecuted for the similar offence of culpable homicide. We believe the same approach should apply in England and that investigation and prosecution of healthcare practitioners should be reserved for only the worst cases.

"We are advocating straightforward changes that can be made quickly without practical difficulty. Given the clear distress that investigations cause for dentists involved and the fear and concern this generates more widely among healthcare practitioners, we urge swift and decisive action."

This guidance was correct at publication 28/03/2018. 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.