Insights from one of Densura's Dental Legal Advisors

Julie-Anne Conway has dedicated nearly a decade to her role as a dental legal advisor, following an extensive career spanning almost 30 years in general practice. Her rich experience includes roles as a practice owner and associate, and she has worked with various corporate and independent providers. She also concurrently works as a clinical lead for a dental corporate and one day a week, provides clinical supervision for third year dental students. This broad spectrum of experience forms the bedrock of her understanding and empathy for the challenges faced by dental practitioners today.

A Day in the Life

In her day-to-day work, Julie-Anne handles a variety of cases, most of which are managed remotely from her home. Her day is punctuated by new cases that arrive daily, each requiring prompt attention. She emphasises the importance of quick responses, especially when a dentist receives a complaint or legal letter. She recalls, “When you get a complaint or claim, it’s the worst feeling in the world. It’s stressful and upsetting. The quicker we can talk to someone, the better.”

Her approach is centred around offering reassurance and support. Whether it’s a simple communication breakdown or a more complex case, her priority is to be available for the dentist, even if just to say, “I’m here, and I’ll be with you every step of the way.” This initial reassurance can make a world of difference. “Knowing that you’re not alone can really alleviate a lot of the initial stress,” she adds.

Handling Complaints and Legal Claims

Julie-Anne’s workload varies greatly; some cases are resolved quickly, perhaps involving a straightforward complaint that requires just a brief letter to close; others are more complex, taking weeks or even months as they progress to legal claims. Her role involves continuous communication with clients, addressing new complaints, and following up on ongoing issues. “Each day is different, and that keeps the job challenging and rewarding. New matters can range from straightforward complaints that are resolved quickly to more complex issues that may take weeks or months to address, especially if they escalate into legal claims,” she explains.

She highlights the importance of understanding the client’s experience and the challenges they face. “We get to know our clients well, building great relationships with them. The complaint culture has changed significantly over the years, and we see a lot more cases now than we used to. The prevalence of complaints has increased, and expectations around record-keeping and guidelines have evolved.”

Emerging Trends in Dental Law

With nearly 30 years in the field, she has witnessed significant changes in the dental landscape. “One of the most common issues we see is periodontal disease, including peri-implantitis. The management of periodontal disease has changed, especially with the 2017 guidelines affecting how we diagnose, record, and communicate with patients.”

Each case is meticulously reviewed, assessing whether the guidelines were followed and if not, whether any harm was caused.

She notes, “We need to interrogate complaints and claims carefully to ensure that harm has truly occurred. Causation is crucial in these cases. It’s crucial to stay updated with the latest guidelines to ensure the best outcomes for patients.”

The Densura Difference

What sets Densura apart is its quick turnaround time and commitment to client support. “When a complaint comes in, it’s incredibly upsetting, and knowing that you have support is invaluable. We aim to be there for practitioners, helping them learn from the experience and avoid similar issues in the future.” This approach not only helps clients navigate the stress of complaints but also enhances their practice by encouraging better record-keeping and communication skills. “Our goal is to turn a stressful situation into a learning opportunity,” she says.

She emphasises the importance of learning from each case. “Even if a complaint is upsetting, we always strive to find something positive that the dentist can take away from the experience.”

Supportive Team and Comprehensive Care

One of her proudest aspects of working at Densura is the exceptional team. “My colleagues are incredibly experienced, each bringing a wealth of knowledge from their own practices. If I don’t know the answer, there’s always someone with the expertise to help.” This collaborative spirit is evident in their approach to client care and advocacy.

She highlights a recent instance where a colleague with extensive commissioning experience provided valuable insights on NHS UDA changes. This team approach ensures that clients receive comprehensive support tailored to their specific needs. “Having a team that you can rely on makes all the difference. We support each other so we can better support our clients,” she adds.

Julie-Anne’s extensive experience and compassionate approach to dental legal advising make her a cornerstone of the Densura team. Her dedication to supporting dental practitioners, combined with the strong team ethos at Densura, ensures that clients receive the best possible care and guidance. For her, it’s all about making the journey through complaints and legal issues as smooth as possible, empowering dentists to become stronger, more informed practitioners.

If you’re a dental professional facing challenges or seeking advice, Julie-Anne and the Densura team are here to support you every step of the way. With their extensive knowledge and unwavering commitment to client care, you’re never alone in facing the complexities of dental practice law. “We’re here to help, every step of the way,” she concludes.

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