Doctors suicides investigated. Now it’s time for someone to take dentists’ deaths seriously too.

A recent article on the BadMed blog site by ‘Dr No’ made me think –

The piece opened with, “It emerged last year that doctors facing General Medical Council Fitness to Practice hearings have a remarkably high death rate. Over the last decade, these doctors have been dying at between fifteen and thirty times the expected rate, depending on the comparator group used to do the calculations. Some of these deaths are known to be suicides, with others suspected but not so recorded.”

The full article is available here: better-read-dead.html

So a good thing is happening in the wake of the concerns shown – whether the results will ever be fully available is another matter, of course.

I’d like to talk about the problems that are facing dentists. There have been several suicides in dental practitioners that were without doubt related to the heavy handed manner in which the CQC was imposed on the profession. There is no doubt that its introduction was wrong; it was untried, inappropriate (it examines many of the wrong things), the inspectors were poorly trained, badly briefed and from my experience were less than objective when dealing with dentistry. Most of the concerns shown by dentists’ representatives before April 2011 have been proved correct. There is still no procedure to examine quality of clinical care in practices. The financing of yet another bit of unnecessary bureaucracy has been passed to the practices by “the unaccountables”.

To return to the original article by Dr No, the numbers of complaints with which the General Dental Council (GDC) is dealing has sky rocketed in recent years. The UK has gone from a culture renowned for its stoicism to one where, in healthcare at any rate, patients are encouraged to complain. The GDC is close to overwhelm with fitness to practice hearings that are, of course, being funded by the fees of every other registered professional.

In my 12961 days on the GDC register I was fortunate enough to have only one complaint made against me (it was rejected at the first hurdle I would add). Were I qualifying today I know that I would not be so lucky and I could expect several more letters from Wimpole Street. From the notification that there had been a complaint to the final “no case to answer” letter took a couple of months. There wasn’t a single day that passed without my thinking and wondering about the “case” several times – I knew I had done nothing wrong and if the circumstances arose again I would have done the same thing.

What it must be like for individuals that have to climb the ladder of escalation I can not guess. The letters asking for more and more information, the requests for further sets of notes so that evidence of other misdemeanours can be found which drag out the process thereby putting greater and greater stress on an individual whose livelihood and personal life can be ruined.

So two points really to be made.

Firstly. Isn’t it time to introduce the excellent ‘Dental Complaints Service’ , which at the moment only deals with private complaints, across the board. I know that prevention is best and it is every practitioners’ job to ensure that complaints are minimised and the GDC tries to take a lead in that. However in these years of dentists adopting a minimal intervention philosophy shouldn’t the regulator do the same?

Second. Is there any evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, into the pressure that the ‘accused’ dentist or DCP endures and the damage caused whether that be suicide or mental illness? Is there any organised assistance in place to help them?

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