DDU highlights ConfiDental support service in latest journal

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has today showcased the work of one of its members, John Lewis, trustee of the charity ConfiDental - a confidential signposting helpline available to dental professionals.

In the latest edition of the DDU journal, John, who is also a practice owner and CQC adviser, describes how professional isolation is a barrier to good mental health in dentistry. He also explains the importance of active listening and giving people the time and space to reflect on professional and/or personal challenges.

In particular, John notes the significant role of senior managers to notice warning signs and act if they are concerned about the mental wellbeing of a colleague. He says:

"It might be someone has become quieter than usual, or they suddenly go over the top about something, or they look tired because they aren't sleeping. You could see a depreciation in the quality of their work, such as not getting referrals and other paperwork done on time, which might easily lead to complaints, and the final stage might be alcohol or substance misuse."

Worryingly, over a third of calls to the ConfiDental helpline have come from dentists who qualified in the last five years and are now thinking of leaving the profession, which John believes is partly due to COVID. "I speak to dentists who didn't do any dentistry in their fourth year of training," he explains, "who only had six months as an FD or missed out on their FD year entirely. It's not been a nice introduction to professional life."

Additionally, John also emphasises the damaging impact of myths and misinformation, often shared on social media, on the dental profession. He shares, "One thing I find a lot is that people worry that their subscription will go up if they contact their dental defence organisation for dento-legal advice, and I always reassure them this simply won't happen."

Indeed, the DDU, in its role as a dental defence organisation, offers a wide range of health and wellbeing support services for members to compliment the services provided by ConfiDental. For example, the DDU’s peer support programme, which connects members with a reassuring colleague who has been through a similar experience, as well as the personalised support provided to members by both the DDU’s knowledgeable dento-legal advisers and in-house legal team. Additionally, the DDU offers a contract-checking service that provides support to associates and principals with a growing range of issues arising from associate agreements.

John Makin, head of the DDU said:

"Sometimes it can be difficult to reach out for professional support and advice. However, dental professionals shouldn’t have to 'just deal with it’ and wellbeing services, such as those provided by the DDU and ConfiDental, are invaluable in providing an understanding and supportive environment in which to discuss difficult topics.

"At the DDU we recommend that dental professionals make the most of their support network to help them deal with stress, anxiety or depression.

"I encourage any member to call the DDU if they require any sort of dento-legal support or advice. It will not affect your subscription but may help alleviate any concerns or difficulties you have."

If you need to talk to a fellow dental professional in confidence, call ConfiDental on 0333 987 5158. DDU members can also contact our team of expert dento-legal advisers.

This page was correct at publication on 20/03/2024. 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.