Laura Blundell explains how you can help to address patient concerns when you are notified of a complaint or claim.
Last month, Densura looked at how indemnity companies can help when you are notified of a complaint or claim.
We emphasised the importance of notifying cases to the indemnity provider as soon as you receive a letter or call from a patient or their legal team.
Most policies require you to notify your provider as soon as you become aware of a complaint or claim or a circumstance that may give rise to a claim.
If you are in any doubt whether to notify a circumstance, it is always wise to err on the side of caution and to notify. Problems can then arise if events are not notified.
Responding without consent
When replying to a patient complaint letter, it is important to remember that you should not write it solely for the person to whom you address it, but for who else may read it too.
Anything written to the patient may also be shown to friends, to the NHS, the regulator, or to a solicitor. If the response letter is not appropriate, you increase the risk the patient will seek a solicitor’s opinion.
No one likes to have their professionalism questioned and it is easy to respond to allegations in haste.
It is imperative you consult your indemnity provider before responding to concerns raised. This way you can avoid unnecessary commitments, nor offer any payment, until you receive expert opinion.
It is essential you obtain advice about the management of complaints before offering financial recompense.
In some circumstances it is advisable to offer a small payment, sufficient to satisfy the patient’s concerns. This might avoid a claim which ultimately costs the indemnifier many thousands of pounds.
The same advice stands if you receive a letter from a solicitor. Do not attempt to respond to the solicitor without the advice of your indemnity provider.
If you do so, you risk prejudicing the position of your indemnity provider, which could result in the declining of legal assistance.
Delay in responding to a complaint letter or, worse, ignoring letters from patients, has serious implications.
If you do not address concerns in a timely manner, patients may lose patience and seek to escalate their complaint to a solicitor, the financial ombudsman, NHS England or the GDC.
Densura therefore operates a strict timetable for acknowledging complaints and responding to concerns raised.
Responding quickly can ensure that the patient feels that their concerns have been taken seriously. It can help to mitigate further complaints, action by a solicitor or the regulatory body.
It is particularly important not to ignore letters sent by a solicitor.
Make sure you review your policy’s notification conditions. Ensure you understand what is required of you to guarantee that your policy will respond to claims.
If cover is withdrawn, you risk legal costs and patient compensation being refused by your provider.
Therefore, if you receive a solicitor’s letter of any sort, notify your indemnifier immediately.
How Densura can help
If you are subject to a complaint or claim, Densura or your own defence body can help you to address patient concerns.
Densura encourages its policyholders to notify matters, and they are not penalised for doing so.
If you are a Densura policyholder, you can then be sure that a legally-trained dentist will be there to advise and support you through all the stages of a complaint or a claim.
For more information visit densura.com.