Dentists planning to leave the NHS and move to offering patients private treatment only are being given advice from the Dental Defence Union (DDU) about how best to communicate the decision to patients.
It was recently revealed that nearly 60% of UK dentists are planning to leave the NHS in the next five years. The national survey by the British Dental Association echoed the findings of a 2016 report by NHS Digital of more than 6,000 UK dentists.
Writing in the latest edition of the DDU Journal, Rupert Hoppenbrouwers, senior dento-legal adviser, says:
‘Patients should be provided with at least six-month’s notice, agreed with the primary care organisation. This should give patients enough time to adjust and will mean any NHS-funded courses of treatment can be completed. If possible, give patients the news face-to-face when they attend for a routine appointment. Most will appreciate the chance to discuss their future dental care in person. Follow this up with a letter explaining the changes at the practice to all patients.
‘Keep patients informed’
‘If possible, include an outline of private consultation fees and information about any private treatment payment plans on offer. Provide details of how patients can find and transfer to another NHS practice, for example by giving details of the local NHS primary care organisation or directing them to the NHS Choices website. This will demonstrate that every effort has been made to keep patients informed, which may help in the event of a complaint.
The DDU also advises dentists planning to stop providing NHS treatment to consider the following steps:
- Ensure staff are briefed on the plans so they can answer patients’ questions accurately and consistently.
- Give patients advance warning of your decision. Don’t tell patients on arrival at the dentist that they have to pay for private treatment or pressurise them to accept.
- When explaining your reasons for going private to patients, steer clear of any comments that could be seen to denigrate the NHS.
- If a patient decides to move to another NHS dentist, their dental records should be retained by your practice and stored securely.
Record the point at which patients cease to be an NHS patient in their dental record. It should be clear which treatment plans were completed under the NHS and which were carried out privately.
- Any NHS branding must be removed from your practice signage, website and literature.
Read the DDU Journal at: https://ddujournal.theddu.com/