In The Press
The Importance of Indemnity
In recent years there has been a staggering rise in the number of claims made against general dental practitioners (GDPs). Figures released by the General Dental Council (GDC) show a 90% increase between 2011 and 2013 alone. While there are a number of reasons that might account for the growing number of complaints – including greater expectations from patients, an increase in media coverage and the ease with which a complaint can be made – there is yet to be a definitive reason for the rise.
That does not change the fact that the GDC received 2274 fitness to practice cases in 2012 – a 44% increase from the previous year. As a result of these increasing numbers, the GDC has been granted the power to appoint case examiners that will be able to decide the outcome of cases at a much earlier stage than present; the process is due to be introduced in the summer of 2016.
In terms of complaints regarding treatment, it seems that crowns (16%) and dentures (15%) are the two main causes for concern.i There has also been, however, a rise in the number of claims made against GDPs for dental implants. A study by the Dental Defence Union in 2015 showed an increase of 41% for the period 2009 to 2013 in comparison to the previous five years.
So what are the implications when a complaint is made against a GDP? There are a number of actions that can be taken by any of the Practice Committees when fitness to practice is called into question. All in all, the process can be stressful – not only could it impact a GDP's career and professional progress, but it could also affect confidence and overall performance within the practice.
Legally, it presents a situation in which a GDP might face a reprimand, suspension, erasure from the professional register or immediate conditional registration. The latter is where a Practice Committee decides to impose conditions on a practitioner's registration with immediate effect. Conditions can also be implemented to cases that do not require instant action, which can last for a period of up to three years.
Ultimately, it has never been more important to have dental indemnity. That is why practising with indemnity cover is now a legal requirement – and has been since July 2014. Legalities aside, covering oneself against potential claims can be very reassuring. After all, no matter how hard one works there is always the possibility that something could go wrong; mistakes are bound to happen when working in an environment that necessitates perfection and is driven by meeting targets, high standards and regulations.
There are two different types of coverage available: occurrence based and claims made. In order to make an informed decision, it is important to have a clear understanding of both and what they have to offer. Indeed, the question should never be "do I really need indemnity?" It should be "what policy is best for me and from whom."
Occurrence based coverage, for instance, protects against any incident that occurs during the policy period, regardless of when the claim is filed. This means that even after the policy is terminated, coverage remains intact as long as the incident occurred during that period. A claims made policy provides coverage when a claim is made during the policy period no matter when the incident took place.
Naturally, there are other considerations to take into account on top of the aforementioned, such as a company's financial stability, reputation, accessibility and on-going service to the profession. For help making the right decision when it comes to indemnity insurance, consider contacting a professional, dental-specific adviser, like those at money4dentists. For protection against claims and for peace of mind, make sure you get the best advice, cover and correct legal representation available – don't fall victim to the rising number of claims.