You may recall a few months back we wrote on this blog about the disturbing findings of the OFT which suggested that a worrying number of patients were not being provided with the right information, with some patients feeling confused or provided with inadequate information.
Additionally there were several examples of dental surgeries failing to provide accurate information on treatments available to patients, resulting in some patients paying for private treatments which should have been available to them on the NHS.
In response to this research the OFT has now launched a Right to Smile campaign across the UK, the aim of which is to make sure that all patients are provided with easy to understand and accurate information on a range of dental related issues.
These issues include how to find a dentist, dental charges, NHS entitlements and what to do in the event that things go wrong.
The Right To Smile Campaign
The OFT’s Right to Smile campaign is being launched simultaneously across England, Scotland and Wales, with the information being provided to each country differing slightly in order to deliver locally accurate information.
You can the OFT’s literature or view their video by visiting http://www.oft.gov.uk/OFTwork/consumer-protection/campaign11-12/dentistry/;jsessionid=6AAC574BEDB80FA8C4CFDA9308E5F3A4.
A number of people and bodies are backing the campaign, including the British Dental Association and the Department of Health. The Chair of the British Dental Association’s Principal Executive Committee, Dr Martin Fallowfield, said, “As the OFT acknowledges, and research by the British Dental Association and other organisations confirms, patients’ satisfaction with dental care in the UK is very high.
“Effective communication between dentists and patients is vital in improving oral health and the British Dental Association is pleased to lend its support to this campaign which seeks to ensure patients have a full understanding of what to expect when receiving dental care.”
Another supporter of the Right to Smile Campaign is Barry Cockcroft, Chief Dental Officer for England, who commented that “Giving patients good information is key to a high quality service. We are delighted to support the Office of Fair Trading’s campaign. An extra one million new patients have visited an NHS dentist since 2010 and we are committed to improving access to dentistry further. This material will help patients make informed choices about their dental care.”
Lord Howe, the UK’s Health Minister, said that “It is great to hear that the majority of patients are happy with their dental care but we know more can be done so that everyone can enjoy better oral health. It is right that patients know exactly what they can expect when they visit the dentist.”
Worrying Findings About Patients’ Understanding Of Their Rights
The OFT’s earlier report indicated that many patients felt that they were encouraged to pay for treatments without feeling that they had an opportunity to enquire about NHS entitlements, and it is hoped that this new campaign will ensure that patients across the UK are better informed about their rights, and about the obligations of the dental industry.
The video and leaflets made available by the OFT include advice for patients which advises them that if an NHS dentist tells them that they need a particular type of treatment they should not need to pay for that treatment privately, and that any treatment or procedure carried out by an NHS dentist is covered by a 12 month assurance, during which time any repair work or further work necessary due to failings during the initial work are completely covered.
The documentation and video also make it much more clear to patients what their rights are should things go wrong, and how they can register a formal complaint or take further action.
This is certainly good news, and it is only right that patients feel that the dental industry is being entirely transparent.
With more patients visiting dentists on a regular basis than ever before it is encouraging to see this campaign helping to improve the relationship between patients and dental surgeries.