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Minimising the impact of investigations amid the pandemic


  Posted by: The Probe      10th September 2020

John Makin, Head of the DDU, explains…

Throughout the UK, GDC investigations, NHS complaints procedures and the Ombudsmen’s complaints process are steadily resuming, having been paused or on hold during the pandemic.

As more dental professionals return to practice we know that complaints and referrals to regulators could also return to pre-pandemic levels. This is why we are working with those responsible for regulating and investigating complaints to ensure their procedures continue to take account of the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic and the fact it’s still not business as usual.

Many of the difficult conditions, constraints and added pressures facing dental professionals will continue for a long time and the impact of the pandemic on the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of healthcare staff could be felt for many years to come.

In a recent survey of 224 DDU members, 68% of respondents felt their stress and anxiety levels had increased since the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, the long term health impact on frontline workers, which some have compared to post traumatic stress disorder, is not yet fully understood.

Since March, 360 patient complaints have been reported to us by DDU members as some patients, their relatives and carers have continued to make complaints during the last few months.

Some complaints have the potential to become clinical negligence claims which is why it is also vital that the government acts to ensure all NHS healthcare professionals are exempt from COVID-19 related litigation, and the additional distress and anxiety it inevitably causes.

The DDU has been liaising with a number of bodies, including the GDC and the Professional Standards Authority, discussing the quickest and fairest way to address the backlog of investigations and reminding them that conditions are far from ‘normal’ and unlikely to be so for a long time to come. It’s not business as usual for our members and it’s reassuring to see this acknowledged and, we hope, taken into consideration by all who whose business it is to hold them accountable.

We owe it to all dental professionals, who have made such enormous personal and professional sacrifices, to continue to try to minimise the impact on them of unnecessary investigations.

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