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A blog explaining why your dentist may not have insurance and the consequences if you wish to make a negligence claim against them.
By Steve Wake
Following on from my previous blog on NHS dentists and related indemnity issues, I thought it might be useful to clarify the requirement placed on an individual dentist to ensure that they have indemnity insurance.
There is no legislation to enforce that dentists must have indemnity insurance. However, the General Dental Council guidelines that state that, from November 2015, all registered dentist must have appropriate insurance or indemnity in place. If a dentist does not have the appropriate indemnity in place then this will be considered a fitness to practice matter, which could result in erasure from the dental professional register.
The General Dental Council guidelines seem reassuring. However when you look at how a dentist proves they have indemnity things start to become a little worrying. Rather than having to submit evidence of indemnity cover to the General Dental Council, each dentist must declare that they have it. In other words, they have to tick a box.
Why is this concerning?
Some dentists are more competent than others. It stands to reason that not all dentists are created equal and some will have more claims made against them than others. As with all insurance policies this means that, those who make claims (e.g. are unfortunate enough to have been sued), see a rise in their premiums (or membership fees). Anecdotally, I have heard of some fees being £30k plus, which is an incentive for the less scrupulous dentist to tick the box and keep on practicing without cover.
But they could be erased from the register! Why would they do that?
Well firstly, the obvious answer is that they don’t have to pay indemnity fees. Secondly, if the General Dental Council finds out and proceeds to a fitness to practice hearing this can take many years, and during this time the dentist can carry on working. However, the victim of the negligent treatment carried by the uninsured dentist is left with the bill for future treatment and no compensation. If for example, someone has lost one tooth as a result of negligent treatment, it could cost thousands of pounds to replace that tooth. . It is not within the General Dental Council’s powers to order a dentist to pay for the treatment needed and most lawyers would not be able to act because the likelihood of achieving a settlement would be slim
The victim is left with no recourse. Surely, this cannot be fair…….