CHANNEL 5 COWBOY TRADERS EXPOSE SERIOUS FLAWS IN DENTAL INSURANCE SYSTEM IN UK

12 July 2013

Campaigners fighting for justice for patients of uninsured dentists welcomed Channel 5's programme last night, but said dentists like Reichel were still getting away with not facing their responsibilities and co-operating with claims.

 

Dom Littlewood from the Cowboy Traders programme chased down rogue dentist Reichel all the way to Warsaw in Poland to get his signature on paperwork so that a claim against him for negligence could be progressed.

 

But he did not sign and  under UK dental indemnity law his insurance company is not obliged to step in. 

 

Bridge the Gap spokesperson David Corless Smith, himself a former dentist now a lawyer specialising in this area, said that even if a dentist is insured he can avoid co-operating and unlike other systems of insurance there is no industry pot  - like the motor insurance sector - where claimants can go if a dentist is uninsured.  

 

"The dental industry has consistently refused to take on developing a ‘safety net’ like this. The insurance companies could easily ring-fence a pot which is used in these circumstances to protect people from rogues like Reichel. It would be a responsible, collective response to an increasing trend ."

 

The programme explored the relationship between the dental clinic and the dentist. Dental clinics offer dentists a place to practice, but do not share any responsibility if things go wrong. The majority of dentists in this country are self-employed so there is no recourse to the clinic if they decide to disappear after treating someone badly.

 

David again: "It took a year for the clinic in Reichel's case to recognise that it had a PR disaster on its hands and offer to make good the damage to Gabriela Andrew’s teeth. While the contract is between dentist and patient, the clinic should take steps to ensure that the dentist is properly qualified and indemnified and fit to practise under its flag."

 

Bridge the Gap campaigners expect to see a European directive implemented at the end of October this year which will close the insurance loophole. All dentists will have to be insured by law to practise in the UK. The campaigners are also calling for mandatory display of documentation on clinic walls so that patients can be reassured that it is in place.

 

David again: "We are concerned this will not be included in any new legislation, leaving it still a lot less transparent than it should be. What is the point of secret insurance where companies can refuse to confirm either way whether someone is covered with them."