Campaign launches to get better protection for dental patients
Acampaignlaunched today is calling for government to ‘bridge the gap’ and close a loophole which currently allows UK dentists to operate without insurance.
In a direct challenge to the Department of Health and the dental regulator, the General Dental Council (GDC), campaigners are calling for the immediate implementation of statutory duty on dentists to get professional indemnity. And to tell their patients about it.They are also calling for dental insurers to co-operate with claims. At the moment an insurer does not have to provide any information to the general public regarding insurance cover without authority from the dentist insured.Speaking on behalf of the campaign group, which includes patients and their representatives, supported by patients rights champions and MPs, Chris Dean, Managing Director of leading dental law firm, the Dental Law Partnership (DLP), said: “Uninsured dentists and insurers who fail to co-operate deprive patients of protection in law when dental treatment goes wrong.”Frequently good solid legal claims involving these risk-creating dentists fail simply because of the lack of liability cover or the dentists lack of co-operation with the legal process.”Analysis of public data from the General Dental Council (GDC) by joint head of the campaign David Corless-Smith (also of DLP) shows a worsening picture.David explains: “We estimate in the last seven years 204,750 people across the UK have been put at potential risk by 117 dentists who were up in front of the regulator and found to be without cover and/or absent and unrepresented at hearings.“What is more worrying is that in the first four months of this year 55% of all concluded dentist conduct hearings at the GDC involved dentists without liability cover or who did not co-operate with formal processes. It was just 25% in 2011.”The DLP has a list of 50 people who have not been able to progress claims. One of them is 47-year-old director Caroline Jones from Fulham. She was treated by a Mr Stepinski at St Clements Dental Care clinic in Fulham Palace Road in April 2010, where she had root canal treatment, a crown and an extraction.Unfortunately Mr Stepinski left a piece of equipment in Caroline’s tooth, removed two perfectly healthy teeth and caused severe gum and bone damage through repeated infections and abscesses. Caroline returned to the surgery on 10 occasions over nine months and saw Mr Stepinski, but he refused to believe that there was anything wrong with his work.The last time she went to the clinic she discovered that Mr Stepinski had left the country leaving no forwarding address. While he had registered with the General Dental Council there was no apparent insurance.“He is now nowhere to be found and I can’t do anything about getting compensation for the original treatment and what I have subsequently paid to sort things out,” said Caroline.Campaigners have produced a White Paper setting out their proposals for a change in the law.The Rt Hon Oliver Colville MP, Member of Parliament for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport and the Rt Hon Mark Francois MP, Member of Parliament for Rayleigh and Wickford both have affected constituents and have offered to meet to see what support they can provide.Campaigners will be taking their message to Westminster on May 22nd and delivering a consultation document to the Law Commission, who are in the process of reviewing the law in this area.David Corless-Smith again: “The loopholes in the law and deliberate lack of co-operation from insurance companies make access to justice impossible. That has got to change.”