A Dental Protection survey of over 1,100 dentist members reveals that nine out of ten (89%) are increasingly fearful of being sued by patients. Of those, three quarters (74%) feel that the fear of being sued impacts on the way they practise.
This fear is not without foundation as 43% of the public believe there are now more marketing campaigns by ‘No Win No fee’ firms compared to five years ago, according to a YouGov survey of 2,000 people. Claimant solicitors are using television, radio adverts and media coverage aimed at increasing the number of claims.
The survey by Dental Protection found that three quarters (74%) of dentists feel that the fear of being sued is affecting the services they believe they are able to offer, while 64% of respondents feel that the fear of being sued has resulted in them making more referrals.
Nearly all respondents (98%) believe that we live in an increasingly litigious society and 79% of them are concerned about the impact this is having on their welfare and the way they practise, with 77% of respondents admitting that the fear of being sued has caused them stress or anxiety.
Key areas where Dental Protection is seeing claims include the diagnosis of caries, periodontal disease and the outcome of endodontic treatment. Issues around consent also often feature in clinical negligence claims.
Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection said: "Dentists work in an increasingly challenging environment. It is worrying that three out of four full time general dental practitioners fear being sued by patients and understandably this will undoubtedly impact on the way they practise and add to already high stress levels”.
“Without proper consent and comprehensive, well organised records, a dentist will be severely disadvantaged in defending any allegations that may surface at a later date. Inadequate clinical records will make the case less defensible and often compromise the final outcome. Dental Protection can provide members with further advice and guidance.”
“We always encourage dentists to explain the costs, risks and benefits of all the treatment options and ensure that the patient has a clear understanding of the planned procedure so that patient expectations can be met. Where a patient expresses dissatisfaction about any aspect of their care, dentists should take this as an opportunity to resolve the issue promptly to the patient’s satisfaction.”