Global research initiative invites grant applications for patient safety and wellbeing projects

The MPS Foundation – a global not-for-profit research initiative that aims to shape the future of patient safety – has opened for applications for its 2024 grant programme.

Medical Protection Society (MPS) – of which Dental Protection is part – launched the Foundation in 2022. Now in its third year, it has already supported over 30 research projects from across the world.

UK projects awarded funding in 2023 include a study aimed at understanding students’ experiences in oral surgery departments across two UK dental schools, and another study exploring dental professionals’ perceptions of resilience.

The Foundation is now inviting new research grant applications from both MPS members and non-members. It will invest in research and analysis with a key focus on patient safety and the wellbeing of healthcare professionals and teams, both medical and dental. Applications will be considered from the jurisdictions where MPS has members. This includes the UK, South Africa, Singapore, New Zealand, Ireland, Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

Research projects supported by The MPS Foundation need to be academically robust and evidence based. Available funding will range from £5,000 to £200,000, or equivalent in local currency, depending on the scale, focus and duration of the proposal.

The funding focusses on five main areas:

  • the impact of human factors on patient safety, outcomes, and risk
  • the impact of processes and delivery modes on patient safety, outcomes, and risk
  • the personal and professional wellbeing of healthcare professionals and teams
  • the impact of digital integration and technology on patient safety, outcomes, and risk
  • the impact of the effectiveness of teaching and learning innovations upon patient safety, outcomes and risk.

Dr Graham Stokes, dentist and MPS Foundation Chair, said: “We are delighted to launch our third grant programme to support research projects on patient safety and the wellbeing of dental professionals. Funding for research in this area has been limited but our grant programmes have been changing that. Projects that we have supported in previous years have shown great success in promoting best practise and wellbeing across several countries.

“Our aim is simple: to fund research that improves safety for patients and the wellbeing of healthcare teams.

“If you have a research project that you think is suitable, register your interest and join our growing community of grant recipients. I strongly encourage healthcare professionals to consider applying for support whatever the scale of the proposal and to make the most of the additional resources available to support applicants this year.”

Applicants can register their interest and apply by visiting and entering their details via the online grant portal. Calls for expressions of interest close on 3 May 2024 at 17:00 BST.

The MPS Foundation team is holding two online question and answer clinics on 8 March and later in April to introduce the 2024 grant programme, explain the application process and what makes a successful application. The team can also respond to any questions applicants have about the process.

The Foundation is part of MPS – the world’s leading protection organisation – which currently supports more than 300,000 doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals, and has almost 130 years of global healthcare experience and expertise.

Karen Miller appointed as next Dental Protection CEO

Medical Protection Society (MPS) – of which Dental Protection is part – has announced the appointment of Karen Miller as its next Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Karen – MPS’s first female CEO – will join MPS in February 2024, taking over from Simon Kayll who will retire at the end of 2023 having been at MPS for 30 years, 12 years as CEO.

She brings extensive experience from the insurance industry, including 5 years as CEO of ABSA General Insurance in South Africa, and most recently, as Chief Operations Officer (Insurance) at Saga in the UK. 

Karen commented: “It is an honour to be leading such a respected international organisation where members are central, and there is a shared commitment to delivering a service which reflects the professionalism and integrity that MPS is renowned for. 

“MPS has a long-standing history, and I am committed to continuing to build a sustainable future as the organisation best placed to meet the ever-changing needs of members around the world.

“Every dental professional needs a defence organisation that will fight their corner when they need it most and provide a reliable, quality service that protects them, their careers and their financial security long into the future.”  

Ian Eardley, Chair of MPS Council, added: “We are proud and excited to welcome Karen to MPS. She brings a wealth of leadership experience and skills that align perfectly with MPS’s goals and values. 

“Her extensive experience of leading in global insurance businesses, while providing the highest quality customer service, speaks volumes about her capabilities and we are confident she will ensure we continue to place members around the world at the heart of all we do.

“Karen’s appointment also marks a significant milestone for MPS, with her becoming our first female CEO. We are committed to fostering a fully inclusive and represented workplace, and Karen’s appointment is an important development in realising this vision.” 

Dental Protection: More clarity needed on timeframes for GDC reform

Dental Protection says it is disappointed that the Government’s update on its reform programme for the healthcare professions does not include a more specific timetable for improving dental regulation.

The comments follow a DHSC update on its reform programme – in particular on the draft legislation to bring Physician Associates and Anaesthesia Associates into regulation. This is the first part of the reform programme, and it is intended to form a blueprint for reforming how other health professions are regulated – eventually including dentists and dental care professionals.

Dr Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection, said: “The Dentists Act is now nearly 40 years old. It is outdated and reform is seriously overdue. The GDC needs more flexibility to streamline its processes, improve efficiency, reduce the number of investigations into less serious allegations and to ensure that investigations conclude more quickly.

“The Government said it will in the first instance focus on reforms to the GMC, NMC and HCPC, with no commitment made to when GDC reform will progress.

“Our hope was that in this update the Government would publish a more specific timetable for GDC reform, however there is no further detail, which is disappointing.

“We will continue to push the Government to publish a specific timetable for GDC reform and provide dental professionals with some certainty on when they may finally be able to benefit from reform to their regulator.”

Civility and team harmony key to mental wellbeing of dental professionals

In a Dental Protection survey of over 1,300 dental professionals in the UK, three in ten (30%) say they have seen or experienced more disrespectful behaviour from colleagues recently than during the pandemic, with over a third (35%) seeing or experiencing this in the last twelve months.

In addition, 65% of those who have seen or experienced disrespectful behaviour from colleagues say it has had a significant or moderate impact on their mental wellbeing.

Dr Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection said: “We know that for any team to succeed, each member must feel valued, respected and supported. Maintaining team harmony in the workplace is the key to organisational success and dentistry is no exception.

“During challenging times, the need for civility and respect is even greater. A difficult day can feel much worse if interactions with colleagues are strained, or if you feel you have been treated disrespectfully.

“Almost two thirds of Dental Protection members who have experienced disrespectful or discourteous behaviour from colleagues say it has impacted on their mental wellbeing, which shows how important it is to maintain a culture of civility.

“When mental wellbeing is poor it is concerning for the individual and can impact adversely on the patient relationship. It can also have a destructive effect on patient care and result in increased absenteeism from work. In some cases, it can drive individuals to contemplate a future outside the dental profession altogether.

“I would encourage dental professionals to look at the ‘Civility Saves Lives’ campaign. While, as the name suggests, it is more aimed at the medical community, its key principles apply to all working in healthcare – namely that when we are in a team which values and respects us, the benefits impact us and our patients. Importantly, it also reminds us that incivility encompasses a range of behaviours such as rudeness, verbal abuse and bullying. We should also be mindful of cyber-incivility which violates our ethical duty to maintain mutual respect within the team.

“I would also encourage members facing mental wellbeing concerns due to interactions at work to make use of our 24/7 counselling service and other wellbeing support which is a benefit of membership with Dental Protection. The service is provided through a third-party partner and is completely confidential.”

Over half of dental professionals say mental wellbeing is worse now than during the Covid pandemic

More than half of dental professionals in the UK (57%) who took part in a survey say their mental health is worse now than it was during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the Dental Protection survey of over 1,300 dental professionals in the UK, one in two (50%) are also pessimistic about the future and more than half (56%) are considering their future in the dental profession due to mental wellbeing concerns.

Dr Yvonne Shaw, Deputy Dental Director at Dental Protection said: “The pandemic created an exceptionally tough time for dentistry, and we know that many practices are still grappling with the aftermath. It is hugely concerning that so many dental professionals who endured the challenges of the pandemic feel that their mental wellbeing is worse off today.

“We all have a part to play in supporting the dental team and looking to restore optimism and purpose in the profession. Many practices offered wellbeing support to dental teams during the pandemic. Wherever possible, this should continue.

“I would also encourage members facing mental wellbeing concerns to make use of our 24/7 counselling service and other wellbeing support which is a benefit of membership with Dental Protection. The service is provided through a third-party partner and is completely confidential.”

Dental professionals who participated in the Dental Protection survey commented anonymously:

“I am considering retirement a little earlier than I would have done a few years ago. It is the pressure of conforming to so many ever-changing rules whilst trying to give the patients the best and most appropriate care. The pandemic was hard but the guidance when it came was clear.”

“I found the first part of the pandemic the most stressful time when I could only give telephone advice. But now, there are too many patients and not enough time, so it’s close.”

“During the pandemic there was a sense of everyone striving towards a common goal. Now it’s back to watching our backs and defensive dentistry.”

“Patients’ expectations are very high since the pandemic. Dentists are leaving the profession and patients do not appear grateful when they are seen.”

Dental Protection emphasises support as new survey reveals impact of staff shortages on wellbeing

Over a third (35%) of dental professionals say they are not able to take breaks during the day to eat or drink, and over half (52%) say the impact of exhaustion on the delivery of quality patient care is affecting their mental health, according to a new survey.

In the Dental Protection survey of over 1,300 dental professionals in the UK, over a third (36%) also say fear of dentolegal issues arising from staff shortages is having a negative impact on their mental health.

Dr Yvonne Shaw, Deputy Dental Director at Dental Protection said: “Dentistry is still a rewarding profession – being able to improve oral health and the quality of life of the public is a privilege which instils a sense of professional satisfaction. However, morale in the profession seems to be at a low ebb, and wellbeing concerns are central to this.

“Demand for dental services remains high, the environment is increasingly challenging and there is a limit on what can be done within available capacity. Clearly some dental professionals are not taking breaks during the working day and are skipping meals, foregoing essential nourishment as a result. This is exacerbated by work overload and staff shortages.

“Dental professionals are among the most dedicated healthcare professionals, so I am not surprised that many put the concerns of their patients before their own; however, not stopping to eat and drink is concerning both for the health of the dental team and the adverse impact this can have on the delivery of care.

“One of the many problems with staff shortages is the knock-on effect on the mental health of remaining staff who risk becoming exhausted and/or demotivated. Over half of our members tell us they are worrying about how exhaustion and burnout are impacting the safe delivery of patient care. The effect of not being able to provide optimum standards of care on any healthcare professional’s mental health – due to external factors and pressures outside of their control – cannot be overstated.

“Many members also tell us they work in fear of becoming embroiled in dentolegal issues arising due to staff shortages, and that this constant worry is having a detrimental impact on their mental health. I would like to reassure all members that Dental Protection is here to offer support in the event of a claim, complaint or other dentolegal issue arising from your professional practice.

“I would also encourage members experiencing work-related stress to make use of our 24/7 counselling service and other wellbeing support which is a benefit of membership with Dental Protection. The service is provided through a third-party partner and is completely confidential.”

Dental professionals who participated in the Dental Protection survey commented anonymously:

“It is apparent to me that the dental industry is a hostile place to work. I fear answering my phone or checking my emails, waiting for developments in the dentolegal case against me, or heaven forbid any further cases should arise. I genuinely try my hardest every day and always put my patients first, and genuinely believe 99.9% of the patients I treat are happy, but after one dentolegal case my confidence is at rock bottom.”

“Staff shortages are putting pressure on other staff members.”

“I cannot recruit an associate dentist to look after patients and meet targets and so I face a big clawback which will have a severe financial impact on the running of the business.”

“Being a young dentist, dentolegal issues are looming over my head. Especially from patients who have worked the system to their advantage and attempted the same techniques (esp. with young dentists or female dentists or dentists of colour). The anxiety has affected the way I work, my professional goals and physical wellbeing.”

Dental Protection’s Paula Rix scoops Menopause Friendly Employer Award

Paula Rix from Medical Protection Society (MPS) – which Dental Protection is part of – has won the Community Award at the prestigious 2023 Menopause Friendly Employer Awards. Now in its second year, the 2023 Menopause Friendly Employer Awards recognise organisations and individuals whose commitment and determination have succeeded in providing support, solutions and resources that normalise menopause in the workplace.

The panel for the Menopause Friendly Community Award category were moved by what Paula and other nominees had done to demonstrate their passion, drive and commitment to bring about significant change among their organisations, friends and families. Many of the finalists have turned a difficult personal experience into something positive and beneficial for their colleagues. Paula is an operational lead focused on driving improvements in the support provided to members.

MPS was also a finalist for the Best Engagement Campaign Award, alongside organisations including BT, Colt Technology Services and the Department for Education. The judges recognised a wide range of creative campaigns, all serving to raise awareness and inspire conversations about menopause in the workplace. Dental Protection’s 2022 engagement campaign called for more training, support and flexible working arrangements for dental professionals going through the menopause, to reduce the risk of a potential exodus of passionate and skilled professionals from the workforce.

Professor Dame Jane Dacre, MPS President, said: “This award is a much-deserved recognition for the drive and commitment Paula has demonstrated to changing the culture around menopause in the workplace, including establishing a Menopause Network, training, events and policy. The work Paula started and continues to drive forward is directly responsible for the successful achievement of Dental Protection’s industry-recognised Menopause Friendly Accreditation in 2022. 

“Her work and passion also inspired our external campaign, which enabled us to take our internal learnings outside our workplace to influence better menopause awareness and support across the healthcare arena. We are delighted this external work was also recognised as a finalist in the Best Engagement Campaign category.”

Hosted by Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace and powered by headline sponsors HSBC UK, first direct, M&S Bank and Peppy, the industry-recognised Menopause Friendly Employer Awards were presented by broadcaster Louise Minchin on Thursday September 14 2023 at the Royal Lancaster Hotel. Over 350 guests gathered there while another 250 joined virtually from across the country.

Dental Protection welcomes GDC pilot to speed up some investigation processes

Dental Protection has welcomed the Fitness to Practise pilot launched by the General Dental Council (GDC) aimed at concluding simple cases more quickly, in the absence of wider regulatory reform.

The pilot will run for six months and deal solely with single patient clinical complaints where there are no previous fitness to practice concerns. According to the GDC, these currently make up 40% of all matters referred to the assessment stage and take more than 30 weeks on average to resolve.

Dental Protection hopes the pilot will demonstrate that more can be done by the GDC to improve and speed up the process for all cases.

Dr George Wright, Deputy Dental Director at Dental Protection said: “Action by the government to amend the GDC’s legislation could give the regulator discretion not to take forward investigations where allegations clearly do not require action, and therefore dedicate more time to the most serious allegations. In the absence of this, we have been calling on the GDC to make more progress in tackling the delay in case handling itself.

“It is encouraging that the GDC has taken this step to trial more informed decision making early in the process in respect of simple cases, with a view to avoiding delays. This is a welcome move, and we hope it results in resolving this cohort of cases more quickly.

“We also hope the pilot demonstrates the potential for the GDC to do more to bring about speedier, more informed and robust decision making across all cases.

“The bigger concern for the dental professionals we represent at Dental Protection is the lack of proportionality and timeliness in the handling of cases that are not closed at assessment. We believe the consistent use of more experienced caseworkers in particularly complex cases would result in better and faster decision making, as well as fewer adjournments by Case Examiners and challenges to the decisions made.

“A key factor that could substantially improve proportionality would be for the GDC to reconsider its policy of referring matters to Case Examiners where it is clear from their own clinical adviser that misconduct cannot be established. We will continue to raise these concerns with the GDC.”

Dental Protection: Frustration over access to dental care fuelling abuse against dental professionals

In a Dental Protection survey of over 1,300 UK dental professionals, more than half (57%) say they have experienced or witnessed verbal or physical abuse from patients or their relatives in the past 12 months, with 64% of those saying the incidents resulted from frustration over long waiting times for appointments and 59% saying it related to the treatment they received.

In addition, 58% of those who have experienced or witnessed abuse in the past 12 months said it affected their mental health, and over a third (37%) said an increase in abuse and intimidation from patients has made them reconsider their career in dentistry.

Nearly a third of dental professionals (31%) also feel abuse against dental professionals is not taken seriously by police.

Dental Protection, part of the Medical Protection Society (MPS) – the world’s leading protection organisation supporting over 300,000 healthcare professionals – called on the Government and police to take “every possible step” to tackle the issue.

Dr Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection said: “Patients who are seeking dental care either for routine care or dental emergencies are becoming increasingly frustrated because of long waiting times and closed lists. Dental professionals continue to offer quality care in a challenging environment but there is a limit when it comes to available capacity. While most patient interactions are convivial it is alarming to learn that a high proportion of dental professionals experience verbal and physical abuse from patients – including, as reported, being threatened with stabbing.

“Experiencing and witnessing abuse can have a lasting and profound impact on mental health and this can be damaging for the individual as well as for patient care. It can also result in dental professionals needing to take time off work, and even quitting dentistry altogether.

“The zero-tolerance policy with regard to abuse, aggression and violence must be rigorously enforced so dental professionals feel their safety is the first priority. The policy must be visible to patients and should emphasise the importance of mutual respect between staff and patients. We encourage practices to provide support and a forum where those who witness or experience any kind of abuse from patients can talk about it and seek an appropriate remedy. The team needs to be aware of what support is available and how to access it.

“Police and Crime Commissioners, and police forces across the UK, should consider how they can support local dental practices; for example, by encouraging reporting of abuse and offering practical advice on recognising warning signs or de-escalation techniques. The Government and police must take every possible step to tackle this issue. If we don’t act, we may lose many more skilled, committed dental professionals at a time when the industry can ill-afford it.”

Dental professionals who participated in the Dental Protection survey commented anonymously:

“I was physically threatened because a patient could not access care anywhere due to closed lists. We involved the police and the patient received a caution.”

“Patients are frustrated at not getting NHS ortho due to lack of consultants and practitioners. I can understand why they are upset it’s just hard being the ‘verbal’ punching bag – these services should not be postcode dependant.”

“Patients are verbally abusive when informed about the lack of capacity for NHS treatment. They accuse staff of being uncaring.”

“A patient was told his orthodontic treatment was to be terminated due to poor compliance. He became verbally abusive and threatened to stab us. We had to barricade ourselves in the surgery until the police arrived, and all the while he was trying to kick the surgery door in.”

GDC guidance will help snuff out misinformation on indemnity, says Dental Protection

The revised General Dental Council (GDC) guidance on professional indemnity and insurance will help dental professionals to sieve through any misinformation as they weigh up their options and choose protection that is right for them.

In its response to the GDC consultation, Dental Protection welcomes the updated guidance and particularly notes the timeliness of the clarity in the wake of the ongoing debate about the different indemnity and insurance products available.

Dr Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection said: “This proposed draft guidance provides a clear explanation of what dental professionals must consider in order to ensure they are compliant with legal and regulatory requirements with regards to indemnity and insurance.

“In our experience, not all dental professionals understand the differences in products available or the implications of changing to a different product. In this context, we believe that this draft guidance is a positive step forward in helping dental professionals understand the options available and make an informed decision on the protection that is right for them.

“The draft guidance contains a checklist of questions to ask yourself including what limits and conditions apply to the claims protection. It also addresses questions such as whether assistance with a fitness to practise investigation and support with wellbeing are provided, which are important for registrants to have in place but are not made available by all providers.

“The GDC’s statistics show that between 2018 and 2021, 34% of dentists and 72% of dental care professionals who had a hearing did not have legal representation, and that registrants without legal representation were much more likely to receive a harsher sanction. We therefore believe it is appropriate and right for the GDC to highlight the importance of assistance with fitness to practise investigations within its indemnity guidance.”

“At Dental Protection, we take a balanced approach of explaining the different products available but sadly not all market participants do so. This draft guidance from the GDC will be helpful for dental professionals in weighing up their options.”