As private patients do not have access to the protections provided by the NHS complaints system, the General Dental Council (GDC) makes the Dental Complaints Service (DCS) available to provide a free and impartial mechanism for resolving patient complaints about private dental care. These are complaints that are not serious enough to raise questions about a professional's fitness to practise.
The GDC currently funds the service and its staff are formally employed by the GDC. The service is nevertheless run 'at arm's length' from the GDC, although the DCS is accountable to the GDC Council and provides regular updates on its performance.
In some other countries, the equivalent of the DCS is not run directly by the regulator. While it would be possible for others to take on the responsibility of running the service from the GDC, no alternative proposition has yet been put forward.
In common with any other body that receives complaints about dental professionals, we expect the DCS to be alert to serious risks to patient safety or to public confidence in dentistry that might raise questions about a registrant's fitness to practise. In such circumstances, we would expect the DCS, like any other body, to draw the matter to the GDC's attention.
As part of our review of DCS, which is a commitment in Shifting the balance, we are currently reviewing the relationship between the DCS and GDC to ensure that only those matters that are sufficiently serious to raise questions about fitness to practise are referred to the Council. The review also involves proposals to widen the scope of DCS to cover patients treated under private dental plans as well as making operational improvements to the DCS's processes.