A GDP contacted the DDU for assistance after receiving a claim on behalf of a patient. The letter of claim alleged the patient experienced exacerbated previous temporomandibular joint pain after they had their LL7 extracted.
In order to investigate the claim, we examined the member's treatment of the patient and approached an expert specialising in reporting on general dental practitioner management. Their opinion was supportive of the member's treatment, and on that basis we sent a denial of liability to the patient.
The patient had suffered from limited opening and pain from the temporomandibular joint for several years before the extraction. Because of this, we argued they could not definitively establish the allegation that they had suffered a permanently displaced left articular disk, requiring open surgery, as a direct result of the extraction.
We also highlighted that there was a gap of some seven months between the extraction and the patient next seeking clinical assistance with their TMJ pain and limited opening - and that when they did seek advice from their general medical practitioner, they did not mention the LL7 extraction and said that all their joints were hurting.
It was clear from assessing the records that the patient had a particular susceptibility to TMJ relapse. When sending our response to the claimant solicitors, we noted that the patient had a relapse after yawning around half a year after attending the GMP.
Despite our substantive response, the patient persisted with the claim and ended up serving court proceedings. We therefore instructed a firm of solicitors experienced in clinical negligence and, with their support, we persisted in defending the claim, serving a formal defence that denied any liability on the part of our member.
The patient was very persistent and the defence of the claim was rather protracted, but eventually we received confirmation from the claimant's solicitors that they were discontinuing - although this was still some nine months after we originally instructed our solicitors.
Even if, as was the case here, the defence is sound, resolving a clinical negligence claim can take a long time - sometimes years. Whatever the situation, it's important to contact the DDU early on, so we can be best placed to offer assistance.