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OFT Study ‘Reinforces Fundamental Need For Dental Industry Reform’

Lawyer Welcomes Report Into Dental Industry


A lawyer who specialises in helping victims of dental negligence has welcomed a new report from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) which has raised concerns that dentists may in some cases mislead patients on their rights to NHS treatment.

The study by the organisation revealed that while patients are generally satisfied with dental services, there was evidence that patients do not have access to all the information they need to make informed decisions on their dental care.

Such issues included the suggestion that some dentists may provide inaccurate information in relation to the costs and availability of both NHS and private treatment, with some patients potentially paying privately, unaware that NHS options were available.

Irwin Mitchell’s Medical Law and Patients’ Rights team act for a number of victims of dental negligence and have campaigned for some time for better regulation to be put in place to protect patients and ensure they always have access to the most suitable care.

Jennifer Emerson, a solicitor at the firm’s Birmingham office who specialises in such cases, said: “Often dental patients are not fully aware of the services available to them on the NHS. Patients deserve to have a full explanation of their treatment in a way which allows them to consider their options and compare the costs of NHS and private treatment.

“Throughout our work on both dental and other medical cases, we have always emphasised the importance of the best needs of patients coming first. It is absolutely essential that lessons are learned from this report.

“We hope that action is taken to ensure that concerns raised about patients being misled are acted upon very swiftly.”

The OFT also found that:
• Patients should not be pressured by dentists into buying insurance policies to cover the cost of private dental treatment. Twenty per cent of patients who had bought these plans had done so under pressure

• The restrictions on patients making direct appointments with dental hygienists, therapists and technicians should be removed by the General Dental Council. The OFT said there were no good reasons for these restrictions and they limited patients' choice

• In England, the Department of Health should make it easier for dentists to set up new practices or expand existing ones. Dentists with an NHS practice were effectively protected from competition.

• The complaints system should be made "simpler, easier and less time-consuming for patients and dentists to resolve complaints". The OFT found that many patients did not have their problems sorted out properly if their dental treatment was poor.

Following the OFT's study the General Dental Council has agreed to require dentists to display their private charges adequately and the BDA said it would publish a code of practice for dentists selling dental insurance policies.

If you have suffered as a result of dental negligence, our medical negligence solicitors could help you to secure compensation. View our Dental Negligence Compensation page for more information.