DDU seeks two-way fairness

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has responded to the government’s proposals to reform the NHS complaints procedure by saying the new system must be fair to those who are complained about, as well as complainants.

Responding to the Department of Health’s proposals, titled Making Experiences Count – the proposed new arrangements for handling health and social care complaints (June 2007), the DDU claims patients as well as dental professionals should be considered.

Rupert Hoppenbrouwers, head of the DDU, said: ‘We support the principle of a simplified two-stage, NHS complaints procedure outlined in the document Making Experiences Count in which complaints are first addressed locally and, if this is unsuccessful, reviewed by the Ombudsman.

‘The procedure should be easy for patients to understand and use, and we welcome the emphasis on resolving concerns effectively locally. We strongly endorse the principle of local resolution. In fact, most dental complaints notified to us are resolved at local level. However, it is important that the new procedure is fair to dental professionals who are complained about, as well as to those making the complaint.

‘We understand the reasons given for allowing a patient to complain to another body such as a PCT if, for example, the patient’s relationship with a dentist has broken down badly, but the dentist who is the subject of the complaint should still be involved and must be allowed to contribute to the response to the complaint.

‘The Dental Complaints Service (DCS), which was established to review complaints about private treatment, has been successful in liaising with practices when it receives complaints and referring them back so they can be resolved locally. It is only fair that the dentist is allowed the opportunity to say what happened and also, as appropriate, to apologise and learn from the complaint, as well as taking responsibility for any changes that may be necessary as a result.

‘We have long advised our members to take all complaints seriously and to learn from them as part of their adverse incident procedures. For example, by identifying where systems need to be put in place to try to prevent mistakes happening again. Naturally, we back the emphasis on preventing harm, reducing risks and learning from complaints.’

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