Putting patient safety first
Safeguarding patients is an important responsibility for all dental professionals. It is much more than just a legal requirement or a part of our Duty of Care. Get it right, and we can make the world of difference to an individual. Get it wrong or lack the confidence to speak up and do something, and the consequences could be life-altering. Here is a summary of what you need to know.
Who is vulnerable?
A ‘vulnerable’ person can take many different forms. For example, they may be an elderly person who is particularly frail. A young child still dependent on their parent or guardian. They might have a mental health disorder, learning disability or physical impairment. Put simply, they are at an increased risk of abuse or neglect.
Consequently, it can be challenging for professionals to identify patients who may be in danger. Good practice protocols and effective staff training will make sure everyone has the confidence to act.
Say a patient comes in and you suspect that something is not right. What do you do?
Every dental practice must have a safeguarding protocol. This should provide a step-by-step guide of what to do and when. At Rodericks, staff first speak to their designated Safeguarding Lead, who follows a procedure for recognition and referral of safeguarding concerns. This may involve speaking to the patient directly or alerting the relevant authorities. We report to the appropriate Children’s or Adult Services and/or the police, who will notify any further services such as the local Social Care Team. Our policies are based on NSF for Children, Young People and Maternity Services, the NHS Long Term Plan and local protocols, ensuring the welfare of all our patients.
Knowledge is power
It’s true that knowledge is power, but knowledge also gives professionals confidence – confidence to make a difference.
As a result, staff training in safeguarding is essential. Both clinical and non-clinical staff need to understand what constitutes abuse. In addition, they need to know how they raise the alarm. Everyone requires basic level 1 training, while clinicians and Safeguarding Leads will need more advanced training.[i], [ii] For instance, all members of staff at Rodericks are trained in local procedures, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 awareness and consent to treatment. All Practice Managers are Safeguarding Leads and therefore receive level 3 training. As the result of regular, quality training, all members of our teams are confident in safeguarding their patients.
Resources for patients
There are plenty of resources available to people who may be facing abuse. The first and hardest step is often talking about it. Samaritans is one charitable group that patients may find helpful. Throughout the month of July, Samaritans runs its “Talk to us” campaign. This is designed to raise awareness of the services offered and encourage people who need support to go and speak to them. More information on what they do and how you could help can be found on the Samaritans website.
Safeguarding patients is not just a tick-box exercise. It is everyone’s ethical duty to help those who are being abused or neglected. As dental professionals, we are able to recognise potential safeguarding issues and help get the support people need.
About the author
Catherine Brady, Chief Clinical Officer at Rodericks, has worked with Rodericks for 10 years, initially as a Clinical Advisor and then as Associate Clinical Director for Support and Development. Cathie wants to continue the ethos that Rodericks is working hard to achieve, which is to be a listening organisation both to our patients and to our teams with the aim to improve quality by support and development. ‘”We want to help our teams improve their performance by providing good quality CPD courses and ensuring that career development plays a key part in ensuring job satisfaction”.
Cathie qualified at Liverpool Dental Hospital in 1989 and went on to work in secondary care, completing a general duties post in Manchester Dental Hospital prior to working in maxillofacial surgery and orthodontics. Cathie then entered general practice and founded Bloxham Dental Practice in 1996, where she continues to treat patients.
In 2002, she became an approved trainer for newly qualified dental graduates and has worked with the Oxford and Wessex Deanery since 2005, initially as a Primary Care Induction Advisor, guiding overseas dentists, and now as a Training Program Director for foundation dentists.
As well as maintaining her clinical practice, Cathie has undertaken a varied postgraduate portfolio: in 2003 she gained her Fellowship in Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England; in 2010 she gained her Certificate in Medical Education; and in 2014 her Masters in Law, both awarded by Cardiff University.