Miss Khan has not been to see a dentist for three years. She has had toothache for
the past three days and books an appointment to see a local dentist, Ms Davies.
At the appointment Ms Davies gives Miss Khan a short examination and tells Miss
Khan that she needs ‘RCT’ and a crown. Ms Davies talks about some of the processes
involved, but does so in a technical way that Miss Khan finds difficult to understand.
Ms Davies asks if Miss Khan understands but she does so in a brusque way while she
is writing the notes. Miss Khan can see that Ms Davies is busy and doesn’t feel
she can prolong the appointment by asking questions. She also doesn’t want to appear
stupid so she says that she does understand and Ms Davies tells her she’ll need
to book two hour-long appointments at reception. Miss Khan books the appointments,
pays for the examination and then leaves.
The next day she decides to get a second opinion. The second dentist explains that
there would be options for treatment but also recommends root canal treatment. However,
this dentist spends time explaining why she needs the procedure and what it will
involve. Miss Khan feels far more relaxed with this dentist and decides to book
the appointments for the treatment. As soon as she leaves that practice, she rings
the first practice to cancel her appointments. Miss Khan feels that the Ms Davies
did not explain the process properly to her and decides to complain to the GDC as
she does not feel comfortable complaining to the practice.
The fitness to practise caseworker considers that Ms Davies may have breached a
number of the standards and guidance in Standards for the Dental Team including
(but not limited to):
- 2.2.1 You must listen to patients and communicate effectively with them at a level
they can understand. Before treatment starts you must:
- Explain the options (including those of delaying treatment or doing nothing) with
the risks and benefits of each; and
- Give full information on the treatment you propose and the possible costs.
- 2.2.2 You should encourage patients to ask questions about their options or any
aspect of their treatment.
- 2.3.3 You should recognise patients’ communication difficulties and try to meet
the patients’ particular communication needs by, for example:
- Not using professional jargon and acronyms;
- Using an interpreter for patients whose first language is not English;
- Suggesting that patients bring someone with them who can use sign language; and
- Providing an induction loop to help patients who wear hearing aids.
- 2.3.4 You should satisfy yourself that patients have understood the information
you have given them, for example by asking questions and summarising the main points
of your discussion.
The case was referred to the Investigating Committee. The committee was concerned
by Ms Davies’ failure to communicate effectively with Miss Khan and decided to issue
her with a letter of advice reminding her of the importance of taking the time to
communicate with patients and explain treatment options to them in language they