It is not uncommon for dental professionals feeling under pressure because of work-related issues to experience stress. At the DDU we receive many calls to our dento-legal helpline from members going through upsetting, difficult and stressful situations, such as receiving a letter from the GDC or solicitor, a complaint from a patient or working in difficult circumstances.

GDC Standards

Aside from the obvious personal importance of doing so, dental professionals have an obligation to make sure they are looking after their own health in the interests of providing safe and appropriate care. The GDC's Standards for the Dental Team provides guidance to help both patients and dentists.

  • Standard 7.2 You must work within your knowledge, skills, professional competence and abilities.
  • 7.2.3 You must only work within your mental and physical capabilities.
  • Standard 9.2 You must protect patients and colleagues from risks posed by your health, conduct or performance.
  • 9.2.1 If you know, or suspect, that patients may be at risk because of your health, behaviour or professional performance, you must consult a suitably qualified colleague immediately and follow advice on how to put the interests of patients first.
  • 9.2.2 You must not rely on your own assessment of the risk you pose to patients. You should seek occupational health advice or other appropriate advice as soon as possible.

Therefore it is important for dental professionals to recognise that they should seek appropriate advice, and follow it, if they consider patients may be at risk due to their health, behaviour or professional performance.

Dental professionals have an obligation to make sure they are looking after their own health

Who can help?

At the DDU we appreciate how distressing a complaint or an investigation is for members, and understand the pressure and frustrations that practitioners are working under these days, especially in busy practices.

We can support you by providing advice and guidance on your individual and specific situations, as well as directing you to additional sources of support if you're feeling the strain.

For matters concerning your health, we would usually advise you to seek advice from your general medical practitioners or from occupational health.

If you're concerned about your performance, you could consider seeking help from the Local Dental Committee (LDC) or from your local postgraduate deanery, many of which offer mentoring schemes.

The Local Dental Committee runs a countrywide scheme called the Practitioner Advice and Support Scheme (PASS) which practitioners can approach for free and confidential support.

Other organisations that can provide support include the Dentist's Health Support Programme (DHSP), the NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP), the BDA Benevolent Fund and the Samaritans.

One of the hardest decisions to make is how to raise concerns about a colleague and who to raise these concerns with. As well as providing a listening ear we can talk you through individual scenarios and provide guidance on your options.

In summary

  1. Recognise that you are feeling stressed and need help.
  2. Seek appropriate professional advice.
  3. Consider contacting a support organisation.

Our team is led and staffed by dentists with real-life experience of the pressures and challenges faced in practice. If you need our support and guidance please call our free dento-legal helpline on 0800 374 626.

This article was correct at publication on 13/09/2017. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

Susan N'Jie

DDU dento-legal adviser

Sue qualified from Guy's Hospital Dental School in 1986 and went into general dental practice in the UK. She spent two years in South Africa helping to set up dental practices in Johannesburg. After 20 years in general dental practice, she joined the Dental Law Partnership, advising on the clinical aspects of negligence claims. Sue joined the DDU in April 2011 and works as a full-time dento-legal adviser.

See more by Susan N'Jie