GDC investigations, negligence claims and increasing patient demands are causing some dental professionals to suffer serious health issues.
A survey of over 200 dental professionals found that 59% of those involved in a GDC investigation or negligence claim in the last five years worry about another investigation, and 14% have suffered serious health issues following a complaint or claim.
‘Dentistry can be a rewarding profession when treatment goes according to plan and patients are happy,’ Eric Easson, DDU dento-legal adviser, said.
‘Unfortunately there are times when it can also be difficult, and all dental professionals will go through times of stress during their working life.
‘GDC fitness to practise investigations, complaints and other complex difficulties faced by dental professionals can be particularly stressful when they have the potential to adversely impact that person’s career and livelihood.
‘Some of these processes can be long, and mean that members often suffer prolonged times of stress, which can impact on physical and mental health.’
Pushing dentists to the brink
The pressure of modern dental practice is pushing some dentists to the brink, the Dental Defence Union (DDU) has said.
It is advising dental professionals that a successful coping strategy is more essential than ever before.
The DDU advises dental professionals suffering from burnout or stress to:
- Get advice at the earliest opportunity to reduce the risk of difficulties faced being compounded
- Contact your dental defence organisation for support as soon as you become aware of an investigation or complaint or an incident that might lead to one
- Talk to colleagues and encourage them to seek help if you see signs that a fellow professional is suffering from stress or health problems. Signs can include frequent absences, or failing to keep up with the demands of regulation and compliance
- Be aware of other sources of support such as the British Doctors and Dentists group and The Dentists’ Health Support Programme.
‘Practitioners might be under pressure because of the constraints of their NHS contract or they could be struggling with the demands of regulation and compliance,’ Malcolm Prideaux, dentist and active member of a local Practitioner Advice and Support scheme, says.
‘This is on top of the demands of treating patients and meeting their commitments outside work.
‘Our goal is to help professionals with performance or health problems and avoid the need for a GDC investigation.
‘This might range from simple telephone advice and practice visits through to coordinating mentoring, further training or counselling, although we have to refer drink and drug problems for specialist support.’