As well as helping with complaints and claims, our advisers often guide members through everyday issues.
Consent form conundrum
During a group discussion in a member's practice, the question came up of when to have consent forms signed. For example, if a GDP made an internal referral to a specialist, would the consent form have to be signed for the initial exam or for the final treatment after seeing the specialist?
Rather than being a one-off event, consent is an ongoing process. In the case of the example above, you would need to make sure the patient had all the information they needed - for example, about the nature of the treatment they're being offered, the reasons for it, the costs, and so on - at each stage of the process, so they could fully consent to everything being discussed.
The discussions you have with a patient about their consent to be treated should always be documented in the notes, and these are very often more important than the actual consent forms. Forms might provide evidence of the consent process, but not necessarily of full and informed consent in and of themselves.
You can find more resources on the topic of consent on the DDU's website.
A member practising in England called the DDU for clarification after they were asked to advise on implant treatment for a patient based in the Republic of Ireland. Could they do so, and what would be the implications if they did?
The DDU adviser explained that if you become involved in advising on treatment of any individual patient, you are then professionally and legally responsible for any advice that you give. As well as this, dental professionals should, in general, be registered and indemnified in the jurisdiction where treatment is provided.
Senior dento-legal adviser
Rupert Hoppenbrouwers (BDS LDSRCS) was head of the DDU until his retirement at the end of 2015. He is a former general dental practitioner and was director of the School of Dental Hygiene at University College Hospital, London, from 1980 to 1986. He has lectured and written widely on risk management and dento-legal matters, has previously chaired the UK Dental Law and Ethics Forum, and has a particular interest in complex ethical and legal issues affecting dental members.
See more by Rupert Hoppenbrouwers