Pressures of practice pushing dentists to the brink
The pressure of dental practice, including increasing patient demands, business worries and rising complaints and claims, is pushing some practitioners to the brink, the Dental Defence Union (DDU) has warned.
A survey of just under two hundred dental professionals carried out by the DDU found that over half of dental professionals (59 per cent) involved in a GDC investigation or negligence claim in the previous five years worry about a further investigation. Additionally, 14 per cent suffered serious health problems following the complaint or claim.
In the latest DDU journal, dento-legal experts and a dental practice owner interested in occupational health matters, advise that a successful coping strategy is more important than ever and provide advice on sources of help and support.
Eric Easson, dento-legal adviser at DDU, said, “Dentistry can be a rewarding profession when treatment goes according to plan and patients are happy. Unfortunately, there are times when it can also be difficult and all dental professionals will go through times of stress during their working life.
“GDC fitness to practise investigations, complaints and other complex difficulties faced by dental professionals can be particularly stressful when they have the potential to adversely impact that person's career and livelihood. Some of these processes can be long, and mean that members often suffer prolonged times of stress which can impact on physical and mental health.”
Dentist Malcolm Prideaux, who is an active member of a local Practitioner Advice and Support scheme, says, “Practitioners might be under pressure because of the constraints of their NHS contract or they could be struggling with the demands of regulation and compliance. This is on top of the demands of treating patients and meeting their commitments outside work.
“Our goal is to help professionals with performance or health problems and avoid the need for a GDC investigation. This might range from simple telephone advice and practice visits through to coordinating mentoring, further training or counselling – although we have to refer drink and drug problems for specialist support.”
Advice for dentists who think they or a colleague may be suffering from burnout, stress or other health problems includes:
- Get advice at the earliest opportunity – doing so can reduce the risk of the difficulties you face being compounded.
- Contact your dental defence organisation for support as soon as you become aware of an investigation or complaint or an incident that might lead to one.
- Talk to colleagues and encourage them to seek help if you see signs that a fellow professional is suffering from stress or health problems. Signs can include frequent absences or failing to keep up with the demands of regulation and compliance.
- Be aware of other sources of support such as the British Doctors and Dentists group and The Dentists’ Health Support Programme.
- The Health and Safety Executive offers an excellent resource with web links, information and assistance on the commonly occurring work related stress issues.
Also included in the latest issue of the DDU’s digital journal, Rupert Hoppenbrouwers discusses how to end a professional relationship with a patient and Chirag Mehta explores the next steps following completion of dental foundation training.