A BIT ABOUT REGULATORS

The Dental profession is regulated nationally principally by AHPRA but co-regulated by The Dental Council in NSW and the Office of the Health Ombudsman in Queensland. Registration of dental practitioners is still provided by the Dental Board of Australia.

The regulators (with few exceptions such as CPD and criminal history compliance) operate – like a police force – by acting on notifications, or complaints. Put simply, if there is no complaint, then there is no assessment or investigations.

In most states, assessments and investigations conclude with the dentist providing responses and the matters being ‘heard on the papers’ with no physical hearing.

In NSW, the opposite is often true and the Dental Council regularly holds hearings and panels.

WHAT HAPPENS IF A COMPLAINT IS MADE

When a complaint is made, it is received and then an assessment usually takes place. The dentist is asked to respond by way of providing clinical records and a response.

After that assessment except in NSW, a decision will be made whether to investigate (which means an investigator is appointed) and often an expert opinion will be obtained. In NSW, the matter might be referred to an assessment panel, or it may be the subject of a Council hearing.

If the matter is investigated, it may take many months as a matter of course. Nothing happens quickly, except if immediate action is taken, meaning the public is at risk and the authority acts relatively quickly.

WHAT CAN THEY DO ?

Once the matter is assessed the Council (in NSW) or Board elsewhere will decide whether to caution, reprimand, impose conditions, or suspend.

A caution means the practitioner is cautioned – a warning if you like.

A reprimand means that the public is made aware that the practitioner is reprimanded, usually with conditions.

Conditions generally mean there is a public record of the conditions on the AHPRA website, and supervision, education and limitations on practice and compliance are frequent conditions.

WHAT SHOULD I DO ?

Firstly, if a complaint is made, don’t panic.

Immediately seek assistance from your indemnifier. If your indemnifier will only review your response to the complaint, you may want to have a legal expert prepare the response for you. The earlier a proper detailed response is made the better.

If you have difficulties in responding in the prescribed time – 14-28 days, then ask for an extension.

WON’T MY INDEMNIFIER /PEER ADVSOR DEAL WITH THIS ?

Of course. Often this can set the scene for the balance of the matter, and it is critical that this is performed by an appropriate legal professional. Too often this initial response is not taken seriously. The input needs to be both clinical and legal.

Indemnifiers and peer advisors often have little or no experience of the appeal and review process – which has to be borne in mind. The indemnity offered does not extend to review and appeals in most cases.

Brad Wright of Dentalegal Solutions based in Brisbane can put full legal advocacy and dental experience into a response and get ahead of the matter for you, rather than just being reactive.

The response Brad will create you should be shown to your indemnifier, thereby preserving your rights.

If conditions on your health practice remain problematic, then please don’t put this at risk-  contact Brad at brad@bradwright.legal or call 07 30071777 for a free initial assessment of your matter.