Patients get new private dentistry rights

New powers for the General Dental Council (GDC) to protect patients were announced last week by Health Minister Rosie Winterton.

The new powers are designed to solve problems highlighted in a report on the private dentistry market in the UK by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). Patients complained that they were not given adequate information to make informed choices about their treatment and often do not know how much their treatment is going to cost. The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has made several rulings against private dentists who have obstructively withheld information and/or improperly charged private prices for doing NHS work.

The Order, made under Section 60 of the Health Act, will allow the GDC to establish a complaints scheme for non-NHS patients to complain about their dental care. For example, dentists are expected to agree a patient’s treatment costs in advance. If the patient then finds that the costs substantially exceed this agreed amount they can complain.

Hew Mathewson, President of the General Dental Council said:

“The new powers will enable us to make significant changes to the way we regulate the dental profession – for the benefit of all UK dental patients and the dental professionals who provide their care. Next year will see us introduce a new complaints scheme for patients receiving private dental care and begin to register and regulate new members of the dental team. We have been preparing for these improvements for several years and are delighted now to have the legislation to implement them.”

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