​The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has said the impact of the delays and disruption caused by the pandemic has resulted in new trends in dental complaints.

While chairing the Westminster Health Forum event on the key priorities for dentistry on June 21, 2022, John Makin, head of the DDU, explained that many patient complaints now arose from issues outside individual dentists’ control such as treatment and commissioning delays. John warned that recent research suggested that following the pandemic, people had a lower threshold for raising a complaint.

Speaking after the event, which was attended by parliamentarians and representatives of the GDC and CQC, John explained, “Dental professionals turn up to work every day wishing to make a difference to their patients by providing quality treatment. However, they are being hampered by matters outside their control such as treatment delays caused by the pandemic and difficulty in commissioning services like molar endodontics. Despite colleagues’ best efforts, patients are frustrated, and this is leading to complaints.

“Research carried out by the GDC found that of just over 100 people who had made a complaint about a dental professional prior to the pandemic, a third said they would be even more likely to complain now about the same issue. Over half said they would be neither more nor less likely to do so and only 6 per cent said they would be less likely to complain.

“The current situation is causing stress levels to rise among dental professionals, and this is being added to by delays for the minority of cases reaching a fitness to practise investigation. In responding to a report by the regulator of regulators - the Professional Standards Authority – the GDC agreed that fitness to practise cases take too long to resolve and committed to taking steps to remedy this. This must be a priority along with government action to reduce treatment delays and meet patient demand for dental care.”