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Principle One

Put patient's interests first


Principle Two

Communicate effectively with patients


Principle Three

Obtain valid consent


Principle Four

Maintain and protect patients' information


Principle Five

Have a clear and effective complaints procedure


Principle Six

Work with colleagues in a way that is in patients' best interests


Principle Seven

Maintain, develop and work within your professional knowledge and skills


Principle Eight

Raise concerns if patients are at risk


Principle Nine

Make sure your personal behaviour maintains patients' confidence in you and the dental profession


Principle Five

Have a clear and effective complaints procedure


Patients expect:

  • Their concerns or complaints to be acknowledged, listened to and dealt with promptly

Standards & their guidance

  • 5.1.1 It is part of your responsibility as a dental professional to deal with complaints properly and professionally. You must:
    • ensure that there is an effective written complaints procedure where you work;
    • follow the complaints procedure at all times;
    • respond to complaints within the time limits set out in the procedure; and
    • provide a constructive response to the complaint.
  • 5.1.2You should make sure that everyone (dental professionals, other staff and patients) knows about the complaints procedure and understands how it works. If you are an employer, or you manage a team, you must ensure that all staff are trained in handling complaints.
  • 5.1.3 If you work for a practice that provides NHS (or equivalent health service) treatment, or if you work in a hospital, you should follow the procedure set down by that organisation.
  • 5.1.4 If you work in private practice, including private practice owned by a dental body corporate, you should make sure that it has a procedure which sets similar standards and time limits to the NHS (or equivalent health service) procedure.
  • 5.1.5 You should make sure that your complaints procedure:
    • is displayed where patients can see it - patients should not have to ask for a copy;
    • is clearly written in plain language and is available in other formats if needed;
    • is easy for patients to understand and follow;
    • provides information on other independent organisations that patients can contact to raise concerns;
    • allows you to deal with complaints promptly and efficiently;
    • allows you to investigate complaints in a full and fair way;
    • explains the possible outcomes;
    • allows information that can be used to improve services to pass back to your practice management or equivalent; and
    • respects patients’ confidentiality.
  • 5.1.6 Complaints can be an opportunity to improve your service. You should analyse any complaints that you receive to help you improve the service you offer, and share lessons learnt from complaints with all team members.
  • 5.1.7 You should keep a written record of all complaints together with your responses. This record should be separate from your patient records so that patients are not discouraged from making a complaint. You should use your record of complaints to monitor your performance in handling complaints and identify any areas that need to be improved.
  • 5.2.1 You should not react defensively to complaints. You should listen carefully to patients who complain and involve them fully in the complaints process. You should find out what outcome patients want from their complaint.
  • 5.3.1 You should give the patient a copy of the complaints procedure when you acknowledge their complaint so that they understand the stages involved and the timescales.
  • 5.3.2 You should deal with complaints in a calm and constructive way and in line with the complaints procedure.
  • 5.3.3 You should aim to resolve complaints as efficiently, effectively and politely as possible.
  • 5.3.4 You must respond to complaints within the time limits set out in your complaints procedure.
  • 5.3.5 If you need more time to investigate a complaint, you should tell the patient when you will respond.
  • 5.3.6 If there are exceptional circumstances which mean that the complaint cannot be resolved within the usual timescale, you should give the patient regular updates (at least every 10 days) on progress.
  • 5.3.7 You should try to deal with all the points raised in the complaint and, where possible, offer a solution for each one.
  • 5.3.8 You should offer an apology and a practical solution where appropriate.
  • 5.3.9 If a complaint is justified, you should offer a fair solution. This may include offering to put things right at your own expense if you have made a mistake.
  • 5.3.10 You should respond to the patient in writing, setting out your findings and any practical solutions you are prepared to offer. Make sure that the letter is clear, deals with the patient’s concerns and is easy for them to understand.
  • 5.3.11 If the patient is not satisfied despite your best efforts to resolve their complaint, you should tell them about other avenues that are open to them, such as the relevant Ombudsman for health service complaints or the Dental Complaints Service for complaints about private dental treatment.

Learning Material & case studies