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Article: Volume 41 Number 3 Page 227 - April 2014

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  Dent Update 2014; 41: 227-228

Complaint Handling - GDC Core Subject:  How We View Complainants; an Ethical Dilemma?

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Abstract: All too often, those patients who complain are thought to be unreasonable. Healthcare professionals often feel that patients do not have an understanding of the pressures and hardships that they struggle with on a day-to-day basis. When a patient complains, it is seen by the professional complained about as a wholly negative event, leading to loss of confidence and leaving that professional feeling demoralized. Often complaints are due to a breakdown in communication. Sometimes a patient is unhappy with a treatment charge or simply there is a perception that he/she has been poorly treated. The General Dental Council and Primary Care Trusts (and now their successors) take a dim view of dental practitioners who deal with complaints poorly. This article sets out to offer a different perspective on complaints, so that the complaint system can be used to build trust between dental professionals and patients, instead of instilling demoralization and fear of litigation into those on the receiving end of a complaint.

Clinical relevance: This article is relevant to all dental professionals as complaints are an inevitability of practice.

Author notes: Alexander C L Holden, BDS, HPD, ACIArb, MJDF RCS(Eng), General Dental Practitioner, 43 Bates Street, Sheffield S10 1NP, UK.

Objective: To stress the ethical and regulatory implications of good practice regarding how patients who complain are received and treated and demonstrate how a beneficial effect can turn around a negative situation into one that is positive and constructive.