A culture of non-cooperation by dental insurers is a greater long term risk to patient protection than the current absence of mandatory insurance cover for dentists, say the UK’s leading claimant dental negligence solicitors.
The Dental Law Partnership (DLP) said today that even if the legal loophole is closed relating to indemnity, patients and their representatives will still find it difficult to get redress because insurers are not obliged to co-operate with the legal process.
Chris Dean, Managing Director at DLP, said: “The attitude of insurance companies is designed to prevent pay out not facilitate it.”
Under current terms of operation insurers are not obliged to reveal whether the dentist in question is insured with them, citing the Data Protection Act. This immediately releases them from any obligation to get involved in the investigations associated with a claim, however solid it is.
Chris Dean again: “The reality of that for Gabriela Andrei, whose story has been widely publicised recently, is that even though the dentist who practised negligently on her was insured, it turned out the cover was inadequate so no pay out is due.
“This is a shocking indictment of a system designed to protect. She continues to live with the serious consequences of negligent dental care with no way of putting things right.”
According to DLP the problem is commonplace. Chris again: “Nobody has questioned the system.”
The leading firm has a growing list of people – now over 50 - who have no possibility of redress.
A recently-launched campaign called Bridge the Gap by the law firm is calling for a change of attitude among insurers.
“We want to make people aware that even if their dentist is insured there is no guarantee that his insurance firm will co-operate with enquiries,” said Chris Dean.
“We are focusing our energies on changing this position.”
The Department of Health has said it aims to have a consultation on indemnity cover for all health professionals in the Autumn and has said it is likely legislation will be amended.
“This does not go far enough,” added Chris. “We want insurance cover to be adequate in all cases and co-operation to be mandatory for insurance companies in the event of a good solid claim. Otherwise the legislation on indemnity is pointless.”