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A full page advert placed by the General Dental Council (GDC) in the Daily Telegraph has caused significant uproar amongst Dentists throughout the entire Country. The advert, a full page spread in the Telegraph’s Saturday Magazine on 5th July 2014 shows a lady’s face with her mouth shaded out under the heading: 

“Not completely happy with your private dental care? Don’t keep quiet about it”.

The advert clearly encourages complaints to be made directly to the Dental Complaints Service (DCS), which is funded as a complaints handling service by the General Dental Council. Placing such a provocative advert is seen by Dentists as an attempt to increase complaints by its Regulator and to some as a back-drop for justification of the significant increase to the annual registration fee Dentists have to pay the GDC. The GDC requires all Dentists to have in place an effective and responsive complaints mechanism to resolve concerns, but critics suggest this advert purports to by-pass this and encourages patients irrespective of the complaint, to complain directly to the DCS. With the use of the words “Not completely happy” many Dentists argue that this encourages spurious complaints which could entail any aspect of a patient’s experience during treatment and is grossly unfair to the vast majority of hardworking, careful, caring and professional Dentists. The advert makes no distinction between mere negligence which may result in a civil claim to be taken by the patient and the higher test for impairment of fitness to practice which involves seriousness of misconduct and is the regulator's remit. Although it is accepted that the Dental Regulator (GDC) has a duty to promote its services in a responsible manner, this advert is seen to have crossed several boundaries. A particular criticism is that it may have contravened its own guidance on advertising and runs the risk of misleading patients into thinking that all complaints would be handled directly by the DCS. Others question why this newspaper as opposed to others was used and the cost entailed in taking out such an advert. In a Press Release the GDC defended its’ actions by stating that this was part of a publicity campaign launched in May 2014 to promote the Dental Complaints Service, as their survey in 2013 of patients and the public had demonstrated that 27% were unsure as to whom to complain. It remains to be seen whether such adverts will raise the number of complaints against Dentists, but many argue that this is yet a further attempt by a Regulator to cover up its own shortcomings, particularly following the recent report by the Professional Conduct Authority (PCA) which was published on 27 June 2014.(Click here for link)