The Dental Defence Union (DDU) paid out over £1.1 million in dental negligence compensation for its members last year.
The DDU, a body that can be considered as the dental equivalent of the Medical Defence Unit, provides both indemnity and legal support for its members when claims are brought against them for dentistry negligence claims. However, since 2006, the DDU has reported that there is an increase in the number of claims made against its members that are being resolved for an excess of £100,000.
Just two of the claims made against DDU members in 2006 were settled for over £100,000, yet since then over £5 million has been paid out in six-figure settlements. Eleven of these were made in 2015, and the highest settlement was paid out for a failure to diagnose and treat periodontal disease, which caused tooth loss.
John Makin, the head of the DDU, has expressed his concern at the trend, afraid that both the increasing number of claims made, and the escalating value, will make indemnity more expensive for his members. “We are seeing disturbing rises in the cost of clinical negligence claims and a surge of claims exceeding £100,000 against our dental members,” he said.
Makin believes that elevated patient expectations and widespread advertising by solicitors specialising in medical negligence claims are to blame for the worrying trend. He points out that the most frequent claims were made for either unsatisfactory or excessive cosmetic treatment or implants.
Some have spoken out against Makin’s comments, saying that they are misleading and that patients should expect a high level of care. A contributor to dentistry.co.uk has also said that, should treatments go wrong, patients should expect that the error be created or be compensated.
He added that it was unjust for Makin to place the blame on solicitors for the increase in claims, as without solicitors dentists would not be adequately dealt with for their malpractice. The contributor pointed out that if the DDU admitted liability on their member’s behalves earlier on in the process, legal costs would be much lower for the organisation.