DDU launches free Situation Judgement Test e-learning course for student members

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has today launched its online DF1Success course to support its student dental members taking the Situation Judgement Test (SJT) this November.

The free, one hour e-learning course is designed to offer practical interactive support to final year students, helping to boost their confidence with taking the SJT. It provides sample SJT questions and expert advice from our dento-legal advisers on how to apply dento-legal principles to the SJT.

Areas covered in the DF1Success course include:

  • What qualities the SJT is looking for
  • Practical tips on taking the test
  • Analysing sample SJT questions

Although the SJT has previously been part of the selection process for foundation training, it is even more important this year, as due to the coronavirus pandemic, applications will be ranked based on the SJT score alone.

Sue N’Jie, dento-legal adviser at the DDU, said: “Previously, our face-to-face DF1Success course was extremely popular because we used our expertise to help students understand how to apply dento-legal principles during the assessment process. This new e-learning course enables us to provide the same practical support virtually to our final year dental student members before their assessment in November.”

Debbie Herbst, also a dento-legal adviser at the DDU, commented: “Upon completing the course, not only will members have had experience of answering situational judgement questions but also an understanding of how to apply dento-legal principles to a range of professional situations.”

For more information about the DF1Success course, click here.  

Top associate contract concerns revealed by the DDU

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has revealed the most common areas of concern that members face when negotiating a new contract. This comes as many dental professionals face a great deal of uncertainty regarding how associate positions may change as a result of Covid-19.

The most common themes and queries from our members include:

  • Remuneration – sometimes payment calculations are either overly complicated, or poorly written, both of which leave room for interpretation. Since the start of the pandemic, many members have contacted us regarding NHS pay and associate contracts. Our advice is that any written agreement concerning NHS payments should be in line with current guidance from the various Chief Dental Officers, and if temporary holding arrangements in place, there should be a degree of flexibility for both parties.
  • Retained fees – the contract should clearly set out how much money will be withheld, for how long and also how the money will be used and why
  • Termination – a contract can usually be terminated by either party by giving the required period of notice, or immediately for specific reasons. However, termination clauses should be balanced, and apply equally to the associate and practice owner
  • Restrictive covenants – also known as “binding out” clauses these set out a radius within which the associate will be unable to work for a set period of time after the contract ends. In order to be enforceable, such clauses may need to be considered reasonable if scrutinised in a formal dispute

As part of their membership, DDU members are able to access a free associate contract checking and advice service. The service, which is available to both associate and practice principal members has had 383 files since its launch in June 2019 and includes:  

  • Free advice on the wording of associate agreements from dento-legal experts
  • Free checks on contracts against best practice guidelines
  • Free access to a model contract, developed with specialist dental lawyers
  • Competitive rates negotiated for DDU members who wish to take a contract dispute further and need specific legal advice

David Lauder, dento-legal adviser at the DDU, said: “Since we introduced our associate contract checking service in June 2019, it has proved to be a very popular service offered as part of the standard DDU membership. However, it cannot be denied that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on dentistry and as a result there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding how associate positions may change in the coming months.

“In these unprecedented times, it may be helpful for associates and practice owners to discuss their contracts, including the achievability of any agreed targets and how any changes to the contract would be made if necessary going forward. Our expert dento-legal advisers are trained to handle the vast majority of queries and members can access this advice by calling our 24-hour dento-legal helpline.”

For more information on the DDU’s associate contract service, please visit: www.theddu.com/contracts.

Dental professionals turn to DDU for reassurance in record numbers during pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has led to record numbers of dental professionals seeking support and advice with dento-legal and membership queries, the Dental Defence Union (DDU) said today.

During the height of the pandemic, the DDU saw a 130% increase in dental professionals visiting its website for advice on areas such as performing remote consultations and returning to practice safely. Meanwhile, the DDU’s membership team dealt with almost 40,000 calls and 46,000 emails from DDU and MDU members between April and July. Many members whose work circumstances had changed, contacted us to adjust their subscription.

The DDU released the figures on the day its parent company, the MDU, published its  annual report for 2019. The MDU’s strong financial position was a key factor in allowing a quick and efficient response to members’ changing needs during the pandemic.

John Makin, head of the DDU, commented: “Our annual report looks back on the issues affecting members during 2019, but no one could have anticipated the events that would so dramatically impact all of us in 2020.

“During the coronavirus pandemic, dental professionals have had to adapt quickly to new ways of working while keeping up to date with rapidly changing guidance. Innovations such as the shift to remote consultations and telephone triage have happened virtually overnight and it’s no wonder that DDU members are looking for trusted information and advice from us on the dento-legal implications of this and all the other issues arising from the pandemic.

“Many members work circumstances have changed dramatically since the lockdown and this led to a surge in calls to our membership helpline. Over 1600 members told us about their changing circumstances after the initial lockdown ended, for example.

“We are proud to have maintained our excellent levels of service with our membership team answering over 82% of almost 40,000 calls within 20 seconds between April and July this year. This is important because members’ time is precious and we know they value a quick and accurate response to their queries.

“These are uncertain times and we recognise the immense pressure our members face in caring for patients. Our role is to alleviate some of the strain of clinical practice and this has never been more important than during the current health emergency.”

Other highlights from the annual report for 2019 include:

  • The number of dental members increased in 2019 as has happened in nine of the last ten years.
  • 65% of dental claims were successfully defended being closed without payment.
  • 27,000 calls were made to the dental and medical 24-hour advisory helplines with over 98% during working hours answered within 20 seconds.
  • 84% of GDC cases involving DDU members at the case examiner stage were resolved without referral to a practice committee hearing. Of cases going to a practice committee, 82% were resolved with no finding of impairment. 
  • Hundreds of members made use of the new associate contract checking service within the first six months of its launch.

DDU launches new employee wellbeing helpline for dental members

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) is supporting its dental members as they prepare to return to work with the introduction of its new, free, employee assistance helpline.

The helpline, delivered through Peninsula Business Services Limited, provides 24-hour, confidential advice, support and information on areas such as:

  • Financial well-being
  • Legal information
  • Family issues and childcare support

In a recent DDU survey, the majority of dental professionals who responded (68%) stated that their stress and anxiety levels have increased since the pandemic. This together with the unprecedented challenges now faced by dentists and the wider dental team, demonstrate that a wellbeing helpline is much needed at this time.

John Makin, head of the DDU said: “As our recent wellbeing survey demonstrates, many dental professionals are currently dealing with increased anxiety levels and they face extraordinarily difficult circumstances as they prepare to return to work. While it is important to share concerns with family, friends and colleagues, it may also be beneficial to speak to a third party confidentially about issues. This is why we are offering an employee wellbeing helpline to all our members. We hope it will be a valuable benefit.”

This employee wellbeing helpline is just one benefit being introduced by the DDU. Another benefit is GROUPCARE, a practice scheme, which provides support and savings for the whole dental team and is free to open where at least half the dentists in the practice are DDU members.

Benefits of the new GROUPCARE scheme include free practice manager membership; 5% off DDU membership for all members within the practice; an additional 50% saving on dental nurse membership; a range of free CPD practice presentations delivered online and a dedicated local dental liaison manager. However, if all the dentists in a practice are DDU members, they can access additional benefits including 10% off DDU membership and free extended vicarious liability. 

John Makin, continues: “GROUPCARE enables a dental practice to access many additional benefits from the DDU such as free practice-based seminars on topics including, good record keeping, dealing with challenging patients and preventing and managing complaints. Also,GROUPCARE members can take advantage of expert dento-legal advice for the whole team.”

To access the employee wellbeing helpline please visit theddu.com/guidance-and-advice/employment-law

DDU survey finds majority of dental professionals believe stress and anxiety levels have increased

New research published by the Dental Defence Union (DDU) has found that 68% of dental professionals surveyed feel that their stress and anxiety levels have increased since the pandemic. The DDU surveyed 224 members and also found that:

  • 67% feel stressed/anxious on a weekly basis
  • 52% feel they are unable to spend adequate time with patients
  • 47% often go to work when they don’t feel well
  • 49% feel they are unable to do their jobs effectively

Of those surveyed, the DDU discovered that 72% of respondents believe that they are making a positive difference to the lives of their patients. Also, the DDU found that members were most likely to raise concerns with their family members (88% of all respondents), colleagues (57% of all respondents) and/or their GP (42%).

This comes as the DDU launches a new health and wellbeing e-learning course which focuses on strategies for coping with adversity, the steps you can take to help yourself, and support a colleague who’s struggling.

Lesley Taylor, dento-legal adviser at the DDU, commented: “Most dental professionals are used to dealing with high pressure situations and stressful decisions but the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified these challenges to an unprecedented level. As many dental professionals prepare to return to work, they will now be faced with a ‘new normal’ and will need to adapt to new ways of working. This may elicit a wide range of emotions and the increased pressure may take its toll on their personal mental wellbeing. The DDU’s new health and wellbeing e-learning course aims to help you recognise the warning signs in yourself and others, as well as the steps you can take to seek support.”

To learn more about the DDU’s health and wellbeing e-learning course click here.

DDU appoints new head of claims handling to continue success in defending cases

The Medical Defence Union (MDU), the parent company of the Dental Defence Union (DDU), has appointed David Pranklin as its new head of claims handling. David succeeds Jill Harding, who led the department for 17 years and recently retired.

David heads up a 36 strong multi-disciplinary team of claims handling experts supporting the MDU’s 200,000 dental professional, doctor and other healthcare worker members facing clinical negligence claims. With a background in the insurance industry, David has worked for the MDU for 22 years, most recently as the technical claims manager with responsibility for leading on high value claims and complex cases as well as deputising for the role he now occupies.

The DDU has an enviable track record of defending claims on behalf of its members. In the last 12 months almost 70% of dental claims were defended successfully and closed without payment of damages.

David explained: “I feel hugely privileged to take on this role and look forward to building on the firm foundations laid by Jill during her years of service. The team has achieved some excellent results in defending claims against members and I look forward to continuing this good work. We know how stressful it can be for our members involved in a clinical negligence claim. For dental professionals, claims are usually made against the individual practitioner and can be very concerning for them. Our role is to relieve the burden for our members, acting in their best interests.

‘Claims against members are not usually indicators of poor or unsafe practice, but unfortunately they are often perceived that way. Because they are personal, claims against members are a very different prospect to claims against institutions. They need an individual approach and our claims team’s excellent results, sustained year on year, demonstrate that members are safe in our hands.”

The DDU recently called for healthcare professionals to be spared from the stress and anxiety of dental negligence claims during the pandemic. The DDU argues that healthcare professionals must be accountable for their actions but the unprecedented circumstances in which care was provided must be remembered when investigating medical negligence claims arising from the pandemic. 

DDU makes enhanced online learning resources free to all

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has made its online learning modules free to all dental professionals to provide enhanced support during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The DDU’s suite of online learning resources covers areas such as dental complaints, ethics and law and professional use of social media. Each course allows clinicians to obtain between one and five hours of verifiable CPD. A dentist who previously completed a course commented that it was an: ‘Excellent summary stating all the facts and what to consider.’

In addition, members’ Covid-related queries such as what to do if a patient complains about a cancelled appointment and what to consider during remote consultations, are being addressed in videos and articles at the.ddu.com/coronavirus

The DDU’s partner organisation, employment law specialist Peninsula, has also recorded a webinar with advice on furloughing staff during the pandemic.

John Makin, head of the DDU said: “The pandemic has turned dental practice on its head and dental professionals have responded to the new challenges with tremendous courage and adaptability. To ensure clinicians are kept up to date with the latest dento-legal information and can continue to obtain required levels of CPD, we’ve made our online learning modules free for everyone. Previously courses were only accessible to DDU members. For our part, our team of dento-legal experts are analysing the latest information to ensure colleagues can access expert advice at their fingertips. We hope the resources will help dental professionals navigate the dento-legal challenges that lie ahead.”

Register at www.the.ddu.com/learn to complete the free courses.

DDU warns that patients may want amalgam fillings replaced

Dental professionals are being advised by the Dental Defence Union (DDU) that they may be approached by patients wanting mercury amalgam fillings removed, following new rules which have just come into force to restrict the material’s use.

Under new EU regulations, from 1 July 2018 dental amalgam should not be used for the treatment of deciduous teeth, children under 15 years and pregnant or breastfeeding women, except when deemed strictly necessary by the dental practitioner based on the specific medical needs of the patient. There are also further restrictions on the disposal of mercury amalgam due to come into force next year.

David Lauder, DDU dento-legal adviser, said: “More than 80 per cent of the population has at least one filling so it’s likely that mercury amalgam will be present in the mouths of most people. The material has been used effectively for more than 150 years, and the new restrictions do not mean amalgam fillings need to be replaced.

“However, due to the publicity surrounding the new regulations, more patients may ask about the safety of existing amalgam fillings and request they are replaced as a precaution.

“Fortunately there are modern alternatives to dental amalgam readily available but dentists need to consider if replacing old fillings would be in the patient’s best interests. As the process of drilling out an old amalgam filling releases more mercury vapour than leaving the filling in situ, it may be difficult to argue that the benefits outweigh the risks, unless the filling is already compromised.

“In addition, it is possible that the treatment could itself cause trauma to the tooth and inflame the pulp, leading to pain and the possible need for further treatment or extraction. This in turn could lead to the patient making a complaint or claim for compensation.

“Dentists should try to reassure the patient about the long term safety of dental amalgam and the risks involved in replacing fillings, before making a detailed note of these discussions in the dental records. If necessary, recommend the patient seeks a second opinion.

“All treatment should be in the patient’s best interest and in line with current accepted practice and teaching as would be supported by a responsible body of dental opinion.”