DDU advises dental professionals to speak up about inappropriate patient behaviour

A DDU survey found one in ten dental professionals had received a gift that raised concerns.

Dental professionals are being reminded to speak up about inappropriate patient advances by the Dental Defence Union (DDU).

The DDU issued the advice after several dental professionals reported receiving inappropriate gifts from patients, including Valentine's flowers and cards.

A DDU survey on receiving gifts from patients found one in ten (11%) of the members who responded had concerns about the reason for gift giving, including that the gift was inappropriate. Some of those responding reported receiving cards and flowers on Valentine's day from patients.

Alison Large, DDU dento-legal adviser, said:

"It is not uncommon for dental professionals to be in a situation where they feel uncomfortable because a patient is behaving in an inappropriate way towards them. This can range from suggestive comments and inappropriate gifts or Valentine's cards to intrusive questions - and in some cases, sexual propositions. None of this is acceptable for healthcare professionals to face in the workplace, and they should take action to prevent such behaviour from escalating.

"GDC Standards place a duty on dental professionals to maintain appropriate boundaries in the relationships they have with patients. With this in mind, it's important to be alert to signs that a patient may be trying to overstep the professional boundary. This could include flirtatious direct messages, texts and calls or invitations to meet socially.

"If a patient behaves in a sexual way towards a dental professional, it's important to tell the patient their behaviour is inappropriate and ask them to stop as long as it is safe to do so. If this doesn't work, dental professionals should seek help and report the incident in line with workplace policies.

"We would also advise those affected to keep a record of what happened and to get support from colleagues and your dental defence organisation."

This page was correct at publication on 13/02/2024. 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.