From GDC website: The 9 GDC standards, which have equal importance, are:
These should be followed by both you and your entire dental team.
Whilst the GDC guidance covers a broad range of professional issues, in our experience practicing dentists have complaints and or claims made against them out of dissatisfaction, often the cause of which is a misunderstanding of expectations and poor documentation evidencing informed consent.
A very common situation is alleged dissatisfaction being used as a lever to reduce treatment fees.
Of all the 9 GDC professional standards that gives rise to most complaints/claims’ activity is the area of valid consent.
In over 30 years of dealing with the medical professions, more claims arise over consent than any other area of activity by a wide margin.
Claimant solicitors trawling for work concentrate on consent as a priority. Poor documentation and a lack of quantification of benefits over risks provide a happy hunting ground for them. In our experience many more cases are lost by poor documentation within dental records than claimants proving their cases in other areas. This is the area where there are most unforced errors.
Two recent cases where we have dealt with requests for notes have a common theme:
Female patients who described themselves as anxious or very anxious.
If the notes reflect accurately (and I am sure they do) the tone of the consultation, the Dentist has naturally tried to be as reassuring as possible. That has led to a lowering of the forensic guard. In both cases there was a failure to quantify the risks, presumably to lessen the anxiety.
Both cases led to requests for notes with accompanying allegations of negligence, on for the treatment itself and the other for unnecessary treatment.
The Dentist is doing himself and his patient no favours by “sugaring the pill”. Hindsight is very good at identifying the line between sympathy and the patient’s concern over the standard of treatment. Both episodes were consented in detailed (risks v benefits). However, there wasn’t the quantification of risks that a belt and braces approach would have secured.
We are not saying the cases are indefensible. We suspect quantification would have tipped the balance in favour of a request for notes NOT being made. Professionalism does not demand the abandonment of sympathy, but this must not be at the expense of forensic defensibility…
If ever there is an area of activity where a problem avoided is better than one overcome, this is it.
To discuss any or all of the information above, please contact us.