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Hospital dentistry litigation in England: clinical negligence claims against the NHS 2015-2020

Abstract

Introduction Litigation against the NHS in England is rising. The aim of this study was to determine the incidence and characteristics of hospital dentistry clinical negligence claims in England.

Methods A retrospective review was undertaken of all clinical negligence claims in England held by NHS Resolution relating to hospital dentistry between April 2015 and April 2020. Analysis was performed using the information for cause, patient injury and claim cost.

Results A total of 492 claims were identified, with an estimated potential cost of £14 million. The most frequent causes for clinical negligence claims included failure/delay in treatment (n = 175; £3.9 million), inappropriate treatment (n = 56; £1.8 million) and failure to warn/obtain informed consent (n = 37; £1.5 million). Wrong site surgery was cited in 33 claims. The most frequent injury reported was dental damage (n = 197; £4.3 million), unnecessary pain (n = 125; £2.3 million) and nerve damage (n = 52; £2.4 million).

Conclusion Clinical negligence claims in hospital dentistry are related to several different aspects of patient management and are not limited to treatment complications alone. Human ergonomics and patient perception of dentistry cannot be controlled but a focus on patient safety measures and effective communication can serve as tools to combat these factors.

Key points

  • NHS Resolution provides expertise to the NHS on resolving claims and works with the Getting It Right First Time programme to share learning for improvement of patient care.

  • The most cited injury in litigation claims towards hospital dentistry was dental damage, unnecessary pain and nerve injury.

  • 'Failure/delay in treatment', 'inappropriate treatment' and 'failure to warn/gain informed consent' were the most common cause of litigation claims in hospital dentistry.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

Jessica R. Blanchard: conception and design, acquisition of data, analysis and interpretation of data, drafting the manuscript and revising the manuscript. Sonita Koshal: conception and design, analysis and interpretation of data, drafting the manuscript and revising the manuscript. Annakan Navaratnam: conception and design, acquisition of data and drafting the manuscript. John T. Machin: drafting the manuscript and revising the manuscript. Tim W. R. Briggs: acquisition of data and revising the manuscript. Elizabeth Jones: conception and design and revising the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jessica R. Blanchard.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval was not required for this study as it is an anonymised service evaluation.

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Blanchard, J., Koshal, S., Navaratnam, A. et al. Hospital dentistry litigation in England: clinical negligence claims against the NHS 2015-2020. Br Dent J (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-022-4965-4

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