Acting As A Professional Witness In Court

Acting As A Professional Witness In Court

As a professional, you may find yourself called to be a witness in court. Your role is vital to establish the facts of a case. This is clearly something to be taken seriously – and that you might require support with.

If you are due to appear in court and need help then you should contact us immediately. Alternatively, read on for our guide on what to expect.

What is a professional witness? 

A professional witness will be called on to try to explain the facts of a case. This is in contrast to an expert witness who is asked to give an impartial medical opinion based on their expertise (see below). Professionals will usually receive a non-negotiable fee and can attend multiple types of court, such as: 

  • Criminal court 
  • Coroner’s court
  • Civil court
  • Employment meetings 

As a professional witness, you are likely to need to give first hand evidence of the treatment of a patient – explaining notes from their record and offering an explanation of events as you saw them. Patient confidentiality should be protected unless specifically directed by the court. 

How to become a professional witness

In order to become a professional witness, you will be called in by court order. 

While you may not ever need to be a professional witness, it is possible and this is one of the many reasons why it is important to keep accurate records that you can easily access.

What does a professional witness do? 

A professional witness will be questioned by barristers on the facts of a case. You may well find that a simple yes or no answer is fitting and this would be acceptable. You should address all of your answers to a judge, jury or tribunal, whichever is appropriate for your case.

Prepare yourself for questioning that might seem repetitive. Take your time, keep your calm and answer every question as well as you can.

You might be challenged and you could face questions on why treatment was taken and alternatives that were considered, which is why it is important to prepare in advance. You should not be afraid to say when you are not able to answer a question.

What is the difference between an expert witness and a professional witness? 

An expert witness is called on to give impartial advice based on their knowledge and experience. They do not have a direct relationship with the patient or case – they attend in order to help clarify a specialist matter before a judge, jury or tribunal.

An expert witness usually has at least 10 years of experience in their field and can have support and training from the Expert Witness Institute.


For more help and support on legal matters, contact the Dental Defence Society.

Dental Prescription: Guidance On Medication Including Antibiotics

Dental Prescription: Guidance On Medication Including Antibiotics

Issuing a dental prescription is common and, although dentists do not give medicine out as often as a GP, it is still likely that you may need to prescribe medication to your patients. 

So, when you do, here is a best practice guide of what to consider. 

What are the most common medical problems in dentistry? 

It is likely you will need to prescribe multiple drugs for all sorts of medical problems during your time in dentistry, but there are a few that are more likely to crop up than others. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Dental and orofacial pain 
  • Oral infections, including: bacterial infections, fungal infections and viral infections

You might also encounter medical emergencies in your practice. Common health issues include:

  • Allergies
  • Arrhythmias
  • Cardiac Prostheses
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Pregnancy

There are a number of different reactions to a number of these, whether it is sending them to hospital, giving them an essential shot, or changing the drugs. For example, pregnant women can only take certain drugs, it is important to research what you are prescribing to someone who is either pregnant or breast feeding to ensure both mother and baby are safe and well. 

How does a dentist prescribe medicine? 

Patients may have a number of conditions which may require medical help, but they can often be aided with the help of medicine. When writing a prescription, it is important to note the strength and quantity clearly. Abbreviations should be avoided when using units or the name of the drugs, to ensure there is no confusion. Similarly, the dose and frequency should be written down clearly and explained verbally to the patient.  

It is not required by law that a dentist needs to liaise with the patient’s GP when prescribing medicine – although it can sometimes be needed to ensure the correct medicine is being prescribed.

When printing the information, it is important to ensure the date, patient’s details, address etc are all accurate. Similarly, the dentist’s name must be at the bottom of the prescription, and it needs to be signed. Despite being different entities, drug prescribing for dentistry is quite similar to a GP prescribing drugs to their patients. Dentists are only able to prescribe medicines that are available to get on a prescription. Alternatively, you can advise your patients of medicines they do not need a prescription for, and help them find the right place to get them from. Any medicines recommended to a private patient can not be prescribed on an NHS prescription. 

Can dentists prescribe antibiotics?

Dentists have the ability to prescribe antibiotics. In some circumstances, it can be beneficial to use antibiotics, but the dentist is likely to prioritise other medicines first. For example, if your patient is suffering from a dental abscess, the initial pain relief would be painkillers, specifically ibuprofen. However, if the infection spreads, or is more severe, then the dentist may wish to prescribe antibiotics.

Are there any issues with prescribing drugs? 

GPs would usually have all of the details of the patient’s medical history, allowing them to understand what drugs would work and what may cause a reaction. Dentists can only prescribe medicine that would be beneficial to oral health so it is important to try to get a greater understanding of the patient’s broader health.

While it is not essential to liaise with the patient’s GP, it can be a good idea to do so. GPs will be able to advise you on what can be prescribed and what strength the patient will be able to take in order to avoid a problem with any of their other medications. 

A dentist should keep an emergency drugs kit in their office in case a dental emergency occurs in an appointment. These emergency drugs would typically include:

  • Glyceryl trinitrate spray
  • Salbutamol
  • Adrenaline
  • Aspirin
  • Glucagon
  • Glucose
  • Midazolam 
  • Oxygen

As a dentist, you should be prepared for any situation in the dental chair, which is why it is essential to have first aid training, and ideally have at least a qualified first-aid trainer in the practice at all times. Training should be updated yearly to ensure your patients are in safe hands, particularly if a patient would need to be resuscitated on site.

For help and support on how to cater for all circumstances in your practice, contact DDS.

Tips For Sincere and Honest Dental Marketing

Tips For Sincere and Honest Dental Marketing

When it comes to gaining and maintaining a patient base, marketing is important. By creating a professional campaign, you can build an approachable yet expert reputation while enticing new clients to join your practice. As with any part of your dentistry, your marketing campaign should not only be sincere but honest, reflecting the service in an accurate manner. If you are not sure where to get started, take a look at our top tips for dental practice marketing.


Dental marketing ideas you need to implement

There are a multitude of marketing methods that are ideal for those looking to retain and strengthen patient relationships. How many you choose from below is up to you – and might depend on the area you are in and the level of competition you face. The more people in your area you reach, the better – but the way in which you reach them does also matter.


Honest and accurate tone

Make sure that whatever marketing material you produce is as accurate as possible. No embellishment or false promises, as this is sure to come back to bite you later. Do not be afraid to show off the positive aspects of your practice, such as understanding staff and modern equipment – so long as this really is part of the service. There is little point gaining clients if they are left disappointed and therefore are not retained. Remember, too, that people will often turn to you when they are in pain or discomfort and they really did not appreciate any further hassle.


A well-designed website

Making a good first impression is key in dental marketing. Your website will likely become your potential patient’s first port of call and therefore, should reflect your practice. You do not want all of your efforts to go to waste once they see the website or click off because the website is hard to navigate.

Rather than overloading the website with media, widgets and other distractions, opt for a professional, organised design. Make sure the design is simple, practical and organised, using a clear drop-down menu system to prevent it from being cluttered. The functionality is just as important as the looks, if not more. Ask yourself – ‘what do the patients need to know’ and make sure the answers to common questions are clearly and succinctly conveyed.


Set up social media pages

As simple as it sounds, creating a social media platform is an essential part of marketing in the digital age. People expect information with a quick tap of their smartphone, which a Facebook profile can offer. At a very basic level, this is how someone can find your contact details, opening hours and location – but you can do more too.

Ensure you post regularly to keep your patients updated with relevant news, as well as taking part in community events if possible. Reply to comments and messages in a friendly yet professional manner as this is an easy way to maintain great relationships with your clientele, as well as gaining new patients. It is your way to show you are sincere.

From sponsoring charity events to interacting with local news, getting involved with the community is another great way of putting your practice out there. Not only that, but it can help build your relationship with your current clientele.


Local advertising and SEO

Utilise search engine optimisation to target potential customers. Use local keywords and search terms when writing content to ensure the right people are finding your page. There are a plethora of advertising tools to assist with this, such as Google AdWords, if you are unsure where to start.

Frame your content and posts so that it is clear where you operate. For example, if you are practising in York, you need people to find you when they Google ‘York dentist’ or ‘dentist in York’.

Do not underestimate the power of the local press either. Newspapers and their accompanying websites offer you the chance to talk to your prospective customers. Consider booking ads – but also do not miss the chance to send press releases if you are expanding, for example, to get some positive PR. Paid-for advertorials also gives you the chance to explain your services in more detail.

Appointment reminders

Gaining new patients is great, but it is equally as important to regularly connect with your long standing clientele. Appointment reminders via text will remind a patient to book in with you, as well as reminding them when to turn up. This engagement is sure to be appreciated by those with busy lives, ensuring regular appointments are kept up and, therefore, retaining your patients. It will also help you to avoid wasting your resources on unfilled appointments.


Email newsletters

Another great method of reaching out to your retained clientele is sending out regular e-newsletters. Whether you send one out weekly, fortnightly or monthly is up to you. This newsletter should contain any practice news such as details of new staff, any changes to opening hours, useful information or advice and any other relevant information. Doing so offers a more personal experience, as well as creating a sense of community with your patients.


Mailed offers

While it may be a more traditional marketing method, mailed newsletters and offers are a great way to keep in touch with your clients. Whether you forgo e-newsletters for a monthly mail out is up to you, but it is an efficient way of keeping in touch with clients and sending out offers on products or services.

Looking for further advice within dentistry? Check out the DDS blog for an array of informative articles on various topics. Alternatively, contact us directly for more information about our excellent indemnity package.

Why It is Crucial To Have Good Record Keeping

Why It is Crucial To Have Good Record Keeping

In any dental role you have to provide the best care possible, but this can only be done with the right information. Having an accurate system of record keeping is crucial when it comes to clinical decision making – providing a reliable account of the patient’s history. It is integral so that all staff members are kept in the loop and that you are able to call upon details if your care is challenged down the line.

If you are wondering what the importance of record keeping is and how to implement your own system, follow our advice below. 

Why is record keeping important?

Record keeping is essential as it supports your decision making in the dental care you provide, offering evidence as to why you did so. The records offer an overlook of a patient’s history, which can assist those who may take over as their dental provider in the future. Nobody’s memory is perfect, so having records to refer to is ideal.

The principles of good record keeping

Ensure your records are of a high standard by making sure they are:

  • Legible and carefully written. You may find yourself in a hurry to write up your notes, but you must ensure they are clear and easy to read.
  • All information is provided. Your notes should be a complete and accurate reflection of your appointment or consultation. Make sure to include all relevant information. 
  • Written accurately with a fresh mind. Try to write up your record as soon as you can after meeting with your patient to ensure you remember all of the details.
  • Done in a timely manner. As well as being fresh, noting down details as soon as possible ensures the record is available when a member of staff needs the records.
  • Written professionally with no personal comments. Do not be tempted to use obscure abbreviations, colloquial language or too much jargon, as a patient can request to see them. This, alongside making comedic or unprofessional notes, could damage your credibility. 
  • Dated and detailed. Not only will this ensure your records are more organised, but it will allow you to keep track of the timeline of someone’s treatment.
  • Organised and filed. There is little point keeping a record if you are going to lose track of them. Find a system that works for you, but make sure each patient’s file is clearly labelled and easily accessible.

Recording an appointment or consultation

When it comes to record keeping, make sure your patients’ records include the following:

  • Both normal and abnormal examination findings
  • The diagnostic process should treatment be required, including how you decided this was the best course of action
  • Patient history and previous dental records
  • How decisions were made and then agreed upon
  • Following the above, how this was discussed with the patient including potential risks and treatments available
  • Any patient concerns or necessary preferences, particularly before treatment and when discussing their symptoms
  • Advice and prescriptions offered
  • Referrals 

As mentioned, you should date all of your records so you can quickly find the necessary files as and when required – either by you or a third party. Please ensure that all of the files are assigned to the right patient, especially when you have some that have a similar name. 

Other records to keep on file

While face-to-face appointments may be the first that spring to mind, there are a number of patient interactions that you should keep a note of. This includes the following:

  • Telephone appointments
  • Photographs or X-Rays with information regarding their importance
  • Referral letters
  • Discussions with colleagues regarding the patient’s care

By keeping such detailed notes, you can provide the best quality care and provide your best judgement. Should you need further advice about keeping on top of your record keeping, get in touch with DDS. We will be happy to help. 

GDPR For Dentists: Making sure you are compliant

GDPR For Dentists: Making sure you are compliant

Dentists have a duty of care for their patients that extends beyond the procedures they carry out. They also need to ensure patients’ private and confidential data is handled sensitively. Since May 2018, that means complying with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations.

In this post, we will look at what GDPR means for dentists and what, if any, steps you should take if you are concerned that you do not currently comply with this.

GDPR explained

GDPR was introduced to update and standardise data protection laws across the European Union, bringing the rules up to speed with the digital age.

It established the following key principles:

  • That data should be processed fairly and lawfully
  • That the data taken should not be stored for any longer than is necessary
  • Any private data should be stored securely
  • Data has to be collected for a legitimate reason
  • Individuals should have the right to know what data is held and ask for this to be erased

The biggest change – that we have probably all noticed – is that people have to clearly ask for permission when taking data and have to be clear about what they intend to use it for.

GDPR for dentists

Dentistry was in a good position to comply with GDPR – and the vast majority of practices already had robust systems in place to sensitively collect, store, maintain, update and use private data. The General Dental Council’s Standards for the dental team states ‘maintain and protect patients’ information’ as one of its nine key principles.

In practice, the advent of GDPR means that dentists need to have explicit permission for any marketing communications or messages they wish to send to patients – and that patients must feel like they have control to select a level of communication they are happy with.

All dental practices providing NHS treatment are considered as public authorities and, under GDPR, these are required to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO). This person could be a new employee hired specifically for the role, an existing employee who takes on new responsibilities or a shared DPO with another practice.

Review GDPR activity to date

By now, every practice should be up to speed with the requirements of GDPR. They should have:

  • Updated privacy notices to make it clear how data will collected, processed, stored and used
  • Updated forms and procedures for collecting data that make the reason for the request clear
  • Reviewed the process through which subject access requests can be made so that you can comply with requests from patients

If none of these has been done – or you are unsure if it was done to the correct standard – then it should be carried out as a matter of urgency to avoid breaking the law. It may now also be appropriate to review changes made in the immediate aftermath of May 2018 to ensure they are still relevant.

The key aspect to be aware of is that dentists must be as clear as possible with their patients when it comes to the data they hold and how they hold it. Provided they make this clear – and ask for explicit permission for use that goes beyond their care – then they will abide by GDPR to ensure they look after patient data as well as their oral health.

If you have any questions about looking after the data of your patients, contact DDS today.