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First class service is important to us at TheDentist. But you can find details on our complaints procedure below.

A     Confidentiality Notice

This document and the information contained therein is the property of The Dentist.

This document contains information that is privileged, confidential or otherwise protected from disclosure. It must not be used by, or its contents reproduced or otherwise copied or disclosed without the prior consent in writing from The Dentist.

B     Document Details

TitleComplaints Policy and Procedure
ClassificationFor all clinical and non-clinical staff
Author and RoleErika Howell, Consultant
Document Number2
Current Version Number1.2
Date last reviewedJune 2021
Authorized byMichael Goldstone & James Taylor
Date of next reviewJune 2022
Document available on Practice Intranet  Yes


This document sets out The Dentist’s policy and procedure in relation to the handling of complaints and is intended as a guide with which those who work within the practices need to be fully familiar in order to ensure that complaints are managed appropriately.

This includes all employees and also other people who work at the practice e.g. self- employed staff, temporary staff and contractors.

From 1st April 2009 a common approach to the handling of complaints was introduced across health and adult social care and this policy and procedure complies with the relevant regulations.

Complaints Policy

The Practices will take reasonable steps to ensure that patients are aware of:

  • their right to complain
  • the complaints procedure.
  • the time limit for resolution.
  • how it will be dealt with.
  • who will deal with it?
  • their right of appeal
  • further action they can take if not satisfied.
  • the fact that any issues will not affect any ongoing treatment from the surgery and they will continue to be treated.
  • their right to assistance with any complaint from independent advocacy services

This will be supported with

  • signs informing patients of the complaints process are displayed in the reception and waiting areas.
  • leaflets informing the patients of the complaint’s procedure are freely available in the practice.
  • the practices websites also providing information

Complaints Procedure

Receiving of Complaints

Patients / Former Patients

The Practice may receive a complaint made by, or on behalf of a patient, or former patient (with their consent), who has received treatment at the Practice.

Additionally, complaints can be made by someone acting for the relatives of a deceased patient/former patient.


Where the patient is a child, complaints can be made

  • by either parent, or in the absence of both parents, the guardian or other adult who has care of the child;
  • by a person duly authorised by a local authority to whose care the child has been committed under the provisions of the Children Act 1989;
  • by a person duly authorised by a voluntary organisation by which the child is being accommodated

Mental/ Physical Capacity

Where the patient lack mental capacity (under the Mental Capacity Act 2005) or physical capacity to make a complaint, complaints may be made by someone acting on their behalf who has an interest in their welfare.

Managing Complaints

The Complaints Manager will manage the complaint supported by Dr Michael Goldstone where appropriate. All clinical complaints will be handled by Dr Michael Goldstone.

Period within which complaints can be made

The period for making a complaint is normally:

– 12 months from the date on which the event which is the subject of the complaint occurred; or

– 12 months from the date on which the event which is the subject of  the complaint comes to the complainant’s notice.

The Operations Manager or Dr Michael Goldstone has the discretion to extend the time limits if the complainant has good reason for not making the complaint sooner, or where it is still possible to properly investigate the complaint despite extended delay.

When considering an extension to the time limit it is important that the Complaints Manager or Operations Manager takes into consideration that the passage of time may prevent an accurate recollection of events by the clinician concerned or by the person bringing the complaint. When deemed appropriate to extend the time limit, the practice will contact the complainant and explain the reasons for the delay.

The collection of evidence, clinical guidelines or other resources relating to the time when the complaint event arose may also be difficult to establish or obtain. These factors may be considered as suitable reason for declining a time limit extension.

Complaints should normally be resolved within 6 months. The practice standard will be 10 working days to complete an investigation and to provide a response back to the patient.

Action upon receipt of a complaint

Complaints may be received either verbally or in writing and must be forwarded to the Complaints Manager for all verbal complaints or the Operations Manager for written complaints or complaint unable to be resolved by the Complaints Manager, and will be dealt with as follows:

Verbal Complaints – will be dealt with by Dr Michael Goldstone, Complaints Manager

Verbal complaints are best dealt with and finalised as early as possible and should be dealt with as follows

  • Staff should listen to the patient’s complaint and where possible, provide the patient with an explanation. This should be factual and should not be an opinion of what the staff member ‘thinks’ may have happened.
    • Where appropriate, a verbal apology should be given by staff.
    • If the complaint has been finalised to the complainant’s satisfaction by the end of the next working day, the complaint will not require a written response (unless deemed serious enough to warrant a formal response when the written complaints procedure should be followed).
    • The complaint’s log will be updated to record details of the complaint for monitoring and learning purposes.

If the complaint cannot be resolved, the Complaints Manager will record details of the complaint in writing and will provide a copy to the complainant within three working days. The process followed will be the same as for written complaints. The Complaints Manager will then advise the Operations Manager- who will deal with the complaint from this stage.

Written Complaints

Complaints that involve the Practice only

  • Respond to a written complaint where possible by telephone in the first instance. This will provide an opportunity for details of the complaint to be clarified and the outcome required by the patient.
    • Formally acknowledge the complaint in writing within the period of 3 working days, beginning with the day on which the complaint was made. Where this is not possible, as soon as reasonably possible.
    • Invite the complainant the opportunity to discuss the matter in person. Again, as this will provide an opportunity for details of the complaint to be clarified and the outcome required by the patient.
    • Inform the patient of potential timescales and the next steps.
    • Record the complaint within the complaints log and this should then be discussed at the morning huddle the next day if appropriate.
    • Investigate the complaint thoroughly completing the appropriate documentation. If appropriate statements should be taken from staff involved / named in the complaint.
    • A written response to the patient as soon as reasonably practicable ensuring that the patient is kept up to date with progress as appropriate. Where a response is not possible within 10 working days provide an update report to the patient with an estimate of the timescale. The final reply will include a full report and a statement advising them of their right to take the matter to the Ombudsman if required.


Complaints involving more than one organisation

  • Where the complaint involves more than one organisation the Operations Manager will liaise with his / her counterpart to agree responsibilities and ensure that one coordinated response is sent.
    • Whoever acknowledges the complaint will need to ensure that the patient’s consent is obtained, in writing, to allow the sharing of information between organisations.

Complaints sent to the incorrect organisation

Where the complaint has been sent to the incorrect organisation,

  • advise the patient within 3 working days, where possible by telephone, and ask them if they want it to be forwarded on to the correct organisation.
    • If it is forwarded to another organisation, write to the patient to confirm the full contact details of the receiving organisation.

Complaints involving Locum Dentist or Nurses

Complaints made to the practice regarding or involving a locum (Dentist, Nurse or any other temporary staff) must be dealt with by the practice in accordance with the Practice’s Complaints Policy and Procedure.

Locum staff should however be involved at an early stage and be advised of the complaint in order that they can provide any explanations, preferably in writing. It would not be usually appropriate for any opinions to be expressed by the Practice on Locum staff. Providing their factual account along with any factual account from the practice is the best way to proceed.

It is necessary for practices to seek an agreement from locums that they will participate in the complaints procedure if required to do so. As complaints can be made to the practice up to a year after the reason for the complaint, it is possible that complaints will arise after the locum has moved on.

Practices should ensure that locums involved in the complaints process are given every opportunity to respond to complaints and it is important that there is no discrepancy between the way the process treats locums, salaried Dentists or Associate Dentists.

Unreasonable Complaints

Where a complainant becomes unreasonable, aggressive or, rude, despite effective complaint handling, some or all of the following formal provisions will apply and will be communicated to the patient:

  • The complaint will be managed by one named individual at senior level who will be the only contact for the patient
    • Contact will be limited to one method only (e.g. in writing) a log of all contact will be saved in the complaint folder
    • A time limit will apply to each contact
    • The number of contacts in a time period will be restricted
    • A witness will be present for all contacts
    • Repeated complaints about the same issue will be refused
    • Only acknowledge correspondence regarding a closed matter, not respond to it
    • Set behaviour standards
    • Return irrelevant documentation
    • Keep detailed records

Complaint Investigation

The practice will determine the seriousness of the complaint and ensure that the complaint is investigated accordingly.

Finding should be recorded using the appropriate documentation and all documents, including any statements taken, duly signed and dated, to support the investigation, should be saved within the relevant complaints folders.

Details of the investigation findings will be recorded on the Complaints Log.

Final Response

A formal written response will be given to the complainant by either the Operations Manager or Dr Michael Goldstone. In the event that the complaint involves clinical matters the response must be in accessible language.

The final response will include:

  • A clear statement of the issues, investigations and the findings, giving clear evidence-based reasons for decisions if appropriate
    • Where errors have occurred, a full explanation and details of the action that will be taken to either put the matter right, or prevent repetition
    • An apology or explanation as appropriate
    • A clear statement that the response is the final one, or that further action or reports will be send later
    • A statement of the right to escalate the complaint, together with the relevant contact details
    • A statement of the right, if they are not satisfied with the response, to refer the complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London, SW1P 4QP or visit the ‘Making a complaint page’ at http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/make-a-complaint (to complain online or download a paper form). Alternatively, the complainant may call the PHSO Customer Helpline on 0345 015 4033 from 8:30am to 5:30pm, Monday to Friday or send a text to their ‘call back’ service: 07624 813 005

The final letter should not include:

  • Any discussion or offer of compensation without the express involvement and agreement of the relevant defence organisation(s)
    • Detailed or complex discussions of dental issues with the patient’s representative unless the patient has given informed consent for this to be done where appropriate.


All complaints must be treated in the strictest confidence.

Where the investigation of the complaint requires consideration of the patient’s dental records, the Operations Manager must inform the patient or person acting on his/her behalf if the investigation will involve disclosure of information contained in those records to a person other than the Practice or an employee of the Practice.

The practice must keep a record of all complaints and copies of all correspondence relating to complaints, but such records must be kept separate from patients’ dental records and no reference to the complaint should be recorded on the computerised clinical record system.

Complaints Log

All complaints will be recorded on the Complaints Log and will be reviewed and discussed at the Monthly Management Meetings, and sooner when deemed necessary. The practice will look for opportunities to review the learning from the complaint and give all staff the opportunity to reflect on the complaint and will implement any learning. The Patient experience will be noted on the log as a point of reference for staff members and to ensure that all staff members are able to learn from the experience.

Annual Review of Complaints

The practice will establish an annual complaints report, incorporating a review of complaints received, along with any learning issues or changes to procedures which have arisen. This report is to be made available to any person who requests it and may form part of the Freedom of Information Act Publication Scheme.

This will include:

  • Statistics on the number of complaints received
    • Justified / unjustified analysis
    • Known referrals to the Ombudsman
    • Subject matter / categorisation / clinical care
    • Learning points
    • Methods of complaints management
    • Any changes to procedure, policies or care which have resulted