The figures, revealed in the MDU's annual report for 2017, the parent company of the DDU, come at a time when dental professionals are under increasing scrutiny from an adversarial dento-legal climate.
John Makin, head of the DDU, said:
'Dental professionals are becoming more aware that they can be held accountable in a number of ways following an adverse incident. An error which leads to a patient coming to harm may not only result in a complaint or claim, but can set in motion a series of investigations such as by the GDC and the dental professional's employer or contract holder. In rare cases when a patient has died, we have also supported dental professionals with coroner's inquiries and police investigations.
'The DDU has a team of 18 dentally-qualified dento-legal advisers and we were busier than ever in 2017. GDC investigations remain a large and important part of our work and during the year, the DDU was notified of around 150 new GDC cases by members.
'Working with our dedicated team of in-house solicitors we aim to demonstrate early on in an investigation that there is no case to answer and to spare members the distress of a public hearing. Where our in-house legal team supported members with cases which proceeded for consideration by case examiners, only 19% resulted in referrals made to one of the GDC's practice committees. This rate of referral compares very favourably with the GDC's overall rate of 38%.
'Although the climate in which dental professionals work can often seem difficult, it's important to keep things in perspective. Professional standards remain high and our members continue to provide excellent care, with many thousands of satisfied patients being treated up and down the country every day.'
Another highlight of 2017 was the launch of the DDU's new free e-learning module on periodontal disease, developed in partnership with the British Society of Periodontology (BSP).
John explained: 'The periodontal e-learning module has proved to be extremely popular with nearly 2,500 dental professionals having signed up so far. This is part of our commitment to ensuring our members have access to the latest dento-legal knowledge to try to prevent complaints or claims before they arise.'
Sign up for the course at theddu.com/perio
This guidance was correct at publication 09/08/2018. 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.