Dental professionals are being advised by the Dental Defence Union (DDU) to ensure they clearly communicate with patients, introducing themselves, explaining what to expect from dental treatment and what the cost will be, in line with new ethical standards soon to be introduced.
The GDC's recently published ‘Standards for the Dental Team’, which will come into effect in September 2013, places greater emphasis on what patients can expect from dental professionals and on the need to ensure patients are given all the information they require to consent to treatment. There is also more detailed guidance on dental charges, social media and working with colleagues.
Leo Briggs, dento-legal adviser at the DDU, said: 'Much has changed in the dental profession since the GDC's previous standards were published in 2005. The new guidance reflects recent developments such as direct access for patients to dental hygienists and therapists and the outcome of reports such as the OFT dental market study and the Francis report into Mid Staffordshire hospital.
'Dental professionals will be only too aware of the need to put patients’ interests first, which has long been central to ethical practice. However, the GDC has provided more prescriptive guidance to dental professionals about what standards of conduct, performance and ethics are expected of them and what patients can expect. We would encourage all dental professionals to use the next two months to digest the guidance before it takes effect on 30 September so they know what is expected of them.'
The DDU is running a number of courses for dental professionals on understanding and complying with the GDC's new guidance. More details at www.theddu.com/learn.
Some of the new requirements on members of the dental team include the need to:
- Introduce yourself to patients and explain your role, avoid using professional jargon and acronyms and ensure patients have understood information by asking questions and summarising the discussion.
- Give patients clear information about costs, including a written and costed treatment plan and explanation of which treatments can be provided under the NHS and which privately.
Display clear information in your practice reception/waiting room, in patient literature and on your website explaining:
- the price list of dental fees
- the members of the dental team (including their registration number where appropriate)
- the fact that you are regulated by the GDC and the nine ethical principles you should abide by (see below).
- Be careful in your use of social media. Don't post information or comments about patients or make personal or derogatory comments about patients or colleagues. Ensure that anonymised cases cannot be identified. The GDC is set to publish further guidance on social media.
The nine core ethical principles which underpin the guidance are:
- Put patients’ interests first
- Communicate effectively with patients
- Obtain valid consent
- Maintain and protect patients’ information
- Have a clear and effective complaints procedure
- Work with colleagues in a way that is in patients’ best interests
- Maintain, develop and work within your professional knowledge and skills
- Raise concerns if patients are at risk
- Make sure your personal behaviour maintains patients’ confidence in you and the dental profession.
The DDU has produced a guide to the key points of the new the standards guidance www.theddu.com.