In February 2012, the Dental Council published an updated Code
of Practice on Professional Behaviour and Ethical Conduct (the
"Code"). The Code introduces new guidelines
covering diverse issues, ranging from an obligation to display a
complaints procedure to the use of social media.
It reinforces that dentists must ensure that patients understand
the diagnosis, treatment plan, likely outcome, costs and
alternative treatment options. Dentists are also obliged to
advise of the nature and associated risks of treatments that are
new, untested or do not have a sound evidence base.
Dentists who are treating adult patients who lack the mental
capacity to give consent should consult the appropriate carer /
guardian with capacity, to reach agreement about treatment, having
due regard to the patient's best interests.
Where an adverse event occurs the Code obliges dentists to respond
openly, honestly and professionally to any questions asked by a
patient, or their carer / guardian about the event. Dentists
must display details of their complaints procedure, so that
patients can identify how to make a complaint, to whom and how the
practice will deal with it.
The Code obliges dentists to make reasonable efforts to inform
patients if the practice is closing or changing ownership.
Dentists must now also have adequate arrangements in place to allow
patient access to records and to provide continuity of care in the
event of the death of the dentist.
The Dental Council advises that dentists should be responsible and
discreet in their use of social media (ie, Facebook or Twitter) for
personal and professional purposes and notes that a breach of this
obligation may result in Fitness to Practise proceedings.
Dentists are now obliged to report colleagues to the Dental
Council if they feel that the colleague is either putting a
patient's safety at risk or unable to provide a competent
service to patients. They must also notify the Dental Council
of any disciplinary matters they are involved in or any convictions
against them, even if they happened in another country, while they
were registered in Ireland.
The Irish Dental Association has welcomed the introduction of the
Code, in particular, for its use of plain English, and is
encouraging all dentists to read the Code in its entirety.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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