This month heralds the appointment of Dr Matthew Lee as the chief executive of the MDU and DDU, succeeding Dr Christine Tomkins following her retirement in September after a long career supporting MDU members. Christine has been in the role since 2009 and worked for the MDU for more than 36 years.
Matthew has been with the organisation for over 20 years and has vowed to continue and build on Christine's work, broadening the range of benefits and services we provide to meet the changing realities of modern practice, while retaining an absolute focus on members' needs.
This change at the top is perhaps as good a time as any to take stock and reflect on and reaffirm who we are and what we do.
Dental professionals are faced these days with a wide choice of indemnity providers, and social media and other channels often host discussions on the subject - including occasional questions along the lines of, "What if we, as dental professionals, were to set up our own indemnity organisation?"
In fact, and as many of you will be aware, as the world's first medical defence organisation that is precisely what the MDU/DDU is. We are a wholly member-owned company that exists for no other reason than to support, guide and defend our members in their everyday work. Our members, therefore, are our employers.
A number of myths surrounding indemnity have developed in recent years. While I can of course only speak for the DDU, for the avoidance of doubt it be helpful to address some of them here.
We robustly defend claims and members' reputations wherever it is possible to do so.
We know we are successful in this because the majority of claims against our members, although often carefully pre-selected by specialist law firms, don't result in an indemnity settlement.
Helping with complaints
We help our members with thousands of complaints each year, and the overwhelming majority are resolved promptly and at a local level - precisely as most members want.
However, when necessary, we are tenacious in helping them defend their reputations. We will counter vexatious complaints and challenge bodies such as the ombudsman where we believe members are being unfairly treated.
We are a wholly member-owned company that exists for no other reason than to support, guide and defend our members in their everyday work.
Members can call us for advice as often as they like without affecting their subscription.
We know members want prompt advice from someone who understands the challenges they face, so over 99% of calls reach a DDU adviser, all of whom are experienced dentists themselves, within 20 seconds.
The vast majority (98.5%) of our members pay the standard subscription for their category of work, and our standard subscription rates have not increased since 2018. We only collect the subscriptions required to deliver the services and support our members need and expect, now and in the future.
The DDU belongs to its members and exists solely for their benefit rather than to generate profits for others. This means our board is able to positively use its discretion to assist members, free from the constraints of small print and profit motives.
Because of this, over the last four years we were able to meet 99.5% of requests for assistance. The benefits available to members are laid out in our member guide.
In recent years, a climate of fear has developed in some quarters of our profession over the potential for a career-changing dento-legal event. In fact, the number of our members facing a claim or regulatory matter at any given time is relatively small and continues to diminish.
In 2020, 82% of GDC cases handled by in-house lawyers were resolved without a formal hearing. And of cases which reached a hearing, 82% were concluded without a finding of impairment.
However, perception is reality. It is perfectly understandable that when colleagues hear of the difficulties of others, often anecdotally, they fear for their own futures. We are therefore on hand not only to reduce members' risk still further through advice and timely guidance, but also to provide unstinting support in the unfortunate event a claim or GDC case does occur.
The DDU - and you
We are constantly in listening mode and regularly survey members to seek their views and feedback on the service and support we provide.
It's your organisation, so please never hesitate to contact me directly. Your thoughts, ideas and comments will help us continue to meet your needs as we move forward with a new hand firmly on the tiller.
Head of the DDU
Head of the DDU
John Makin BDS PgDL PgCDE FHEA is head of the DDU. He qualified in Manchester in 1983 and has worked as a general dental practitioner in Lancashire and Devon before joining the DDU as a dento-legal adviser. He was involved with foundation training for many years as both a trainer and VT adviser/training programme director with the Manchester and Exeter DFT schemes.
See more by John Makin