The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has revealed it paid out more than £1.1 million in compensation for negligent dentistry on behalf of its members last year.
The DDU is the dentistry equivalent of the Medical Defence Union, and is an organisation that provides indemnity and legal support when claims for negligent dentistry are made against its members. Over the last decade, the DDU claims that there has been a substantial increase in the volume of claims being resolved in excess of £100,000.
Since 2006 – when only two claims were settled for amounts in excess of £100,000 – the DDU has paid almost £5 million in six-figure settlements; with £1.1 million compensation for negligent dentistry being paid out in 2015. The highest settlement of the eleven six-figure settlements was for the failure to diagnose and treat periodontal disease leading to tooth loss.
John Makin, head of the DDU, is concerned that the increasing number of claims and the escalating settlements of compensation for negligent dentistry are making indemnity more expensive for individual dental practitioners. “We are seeing disturbing rises in the cost of clinical negligence claims and a surge of claims exceeding £100,000 against our dental members,” he said.
Makin blames rising patient expectations and aggressive marketing by medical negligence solicitors for the increased number of six-figure settlements of compensation for negligent dentistry. He listed common allegations made by patients in 2015 as implants or cosmetic treatments that were unsatisfactory, excessive, or where the appearance was not as expected.
However, Makin´s comments have been attacked for being misleading. One contributor to dentistry.co.uk argued that it was only right that patients should expect a high standard of treatment from dentists, and expect dentists to put things right when they go wrong – or pay compensation for negligent dentistry.
The contributor also criticised the DDU´s head for blaming solicitors for the bigger compensation settlements. He commented that if there were no solicitors, the negligent dentists would be getting away with misdiagnosing gum disease and tooth decay. He added that if the DDU were to admit liability for their members´ faults at an earlier stage – rather than defend indefensible claims – the DDU´s legal costs would be much lower.