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Wed 20 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Irked patients win $200,000 complaints payout

A complaints service has ordered British dentists to pay out more than US$200,000 to disgruntled patients in compensation for overcharging and substandard work.

A complaints service has ordered British dentists to pay out more than US$200,000 to disgruntled patients in compensation for overcharging and substandard work.

The Dental Complaints Service, which was set up in March 2006 to monitor the private sector, handled more than 1,600 complaints from patients in its first year. The body awarded $269,000 in refunded fees, an average of $168 per patient.

The top five areas of complaint to the DCS involved fillings, dentures, crowns, root canal treatments and bridges. Grievances included excessive cost, pain being ignored, rudeness, lack of access to treatment and failure to obtain consent, according to its annual report published in January.

Three-quarters of cases were resolved in three days, on average. Only 16 complaints progressed to the final stage of the three-stage procedure, where they were decided by a three-member panel. Ten of the 16 cases heard were resolved in favour of the patient.

Hugh Smith, head of the DCS, told reporters: "We are about helping patients and dentists to find a resolution quickly, with the fee refunded or a payment made for remedial work as appropriate.

"Most dentists want the opportunity to put things right - so referring the patient back to the practice works very well. Sometimes the complaints are about cost but cost tends to come into it when the treatment has gone wrong.

An inquiry by Britain's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) estimated in 2003 that 10 million patients had received at least some private treatment in their lives and the growth in private work has since accelerated.

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