Root out groundless complaints to restore faith in regulation, urges DDU

We call for more focus on closing down complaints without merit.

Healthcare regulators must do more to root out complaints without merit to succeed in restoring faith in healthcare regulation, according to the head of a leading dental defence organisation.

Speaking at the Westminster Health Forum event on Priorities for dentistry in England, John Makin, head of the Dental Defence Union (DDU), told attendees that too often he witnessed dedicated dental professionals undergo the stress of a protracted investigation needlessly because of a groundless complaint.

John explained: "When concerns are raised about a dental professional that might impact patient safety or confidence in the profession, it's right they are investigated.

"However, we see a number of cases in which the concerns being raised have no foundation. We highlighted such a case involving a member in a recent journal article. The whole process can be extremely stressful and protracted, especially in cases where there are several investigations into the same incident. We have reached a situation where the process in and of itself is a sanction, regardless of the eventual outcome.

"It is incumbent on those bodies investigating dental professionals, such as the General Dental Council (GDC), NHS England, CQC, and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, to have the courage to firmly and robustly close down cases quickly where concerns have no foundation. This will not only safeguard the mental health of the individual practitioners involved, but also give a morale boost to the profession as a whole.

"For its part, the GDC has introduced a pilot scheme aimed at speeding up the resolution of certain cases. However, without reform of the outdated Dentists Act, the GDC only has the power to make limited improvements to fitness to practise procedures. We need the government to fix a timetable for that reform without further delay and before the next election."

Read more about the work the DDU is doing to campaign for a fair deal for dental professionals in the latest DDU journal.

This page was correct at publication on 01/12/2023. 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.