Missed appointments
 

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Missed appointments

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Missed appointments

 

Missed appointments

In his regular Dentistry column, Bryan Harvey, deputy head of the DDU, explains how to deal with patients who fail to turn up.

A survey of 57 Cardiff dental practices* revealed that patients who failed to attend appointments during the first eight months after the new contract was introduced in April 2006 cost the NHS an estimated £322,000. Some practices reported to the Cardiff Local Health Board that 20% of appointments had been missed.

Under the contract, dentists are not allowed to charge NHS patients for failing to attend. While it could be tempting to simply terminate the course of treatment when patients persistently disrupt your practice in this way, in most circumstances this should be a last resort. In fact, in the DDU’s experience, refusing a patient further treatment often leads to a complaint

So what can a dental practice do instead? The first step is to ensure there is a clear protocol in the practice for making appointments and dealing with missed appointments. Ensure patients are properly informed about the appointment system: how it operates and the difficulties that missed appointments can cause. It is always worth explaining the procedure again when contacting a patient to reschedule a missed appointment, in case of any misunderstanding.

Where a patient continually misses appointments it is worth finding out whether there may be an underlying problem, such as anxiety about treatment. Try to arrange a time to talk to them before another appointment is offered.

If you believe that the outlook for the patient’s dental health is poor given their indifferent attitude to treatment, advise the patient accordingly and explain the effect on their prognosis if they fail to attend. Keep a note in the records of the discussion. For young patients, it may be a good idea to enlist the help of a parent, although if the child is Gillick competent you should normally obtain their consent first.

There may be rare circumstances when the practitioner may find it necessary to end the professional relationship, for example where a patient has persistently acted inconsiderately or unreasonably. In such cases, the patient should be informed why you have decided to end the relationship and given clear information about the process of seeking treatment from another practice. The NHS (General Dental Services Contracts) Regulations 2005 details the circumstances in which a contractor can terminate a course of treatment.
* South Wales Echo, 20 December 2006.

 Posted on : Wed 21st - Feb - 2007

 

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