Legal tips for dentists on the move

Dental professionals planning to move practices should ensure there is no disruption to patient care before they move on, according to the latest DDU Journal*.

Head of the Dental Defence Union (DDU), Rupert Hoppenbrouwers, explains: ‘Understandably, the months and weeks before a dental professional leaves a practice can be a busy, stressful and exciting time and there are many things to remember, but the best interests of patients must always come first.

‘The DDU is aware of complaints from patients who have agreed a course of treatment with one dental professional and not been informed that their successor will be carrying it out. There have also been occasional instances of complaints or claims against dental professionals who have left their practice and cannot be contacted.

‘We hope that, by making dental professionals aware of the potential pitfalls, they can take steps to avoid them, and face their next career move with confidence.’

The advice includes:
•  Try to complete all courses of treatment or make arrangements for them to be completed by another trained and competent dental professional
• Owners of NHS practices/providers will need to liaise with their primary care organisation (PCO)
• It may be better not to begin an extensive course of treatment which you will not be able to complete, and instead offer the patient the option of having the treatment plan carried out by one dentist
• Patients should be given sufficient notice of your plans and details of any arrangements made for their ongoing care so they are able to make an informed decision about their treatment
• If you are selling up, it’s a good idea to seek independent legal advice about how to safeguard ongoing patient care in the contract of sale
• Ensure your professional dental plate is not displayed once you have left and your name is removed from practice literature, such as letterheads
• In all cases, you should ensure that you can be contacted after your departure, in the event of any complaint about your work or claim against you
• Before selling your practice, seek legal advice about ensuring the safe and secure storage of records in the contract of sale
• If the practice is closing altogether, make arrangements for patient records, including radiographs, reports and study casts, to be securely stored. NHS providers may need to liaise with their PCO
• If in doubt, dental professionals should consult their dental defence organisation for specific advice.

*DDU Journal, December 2009 is available free to MDU members at

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