Dentist Breaking the Law? Need advice
April 26, 2006 6:02 AM   Subscribe

Problem with UK dentist? prescribing drugs without seeing you. Need legal advice.

First off, Im from England.

My problem is that my wife has suffered from a severe pain in her jaw. She suffered Saturday/Sunday to see if it would go. The pain was so bad on the Monday she called her local dentist. The receptionist just told her to take antibiotics and come back next week.

So without a checkup she picked up the prescription and got the drugs. Its now Wednesday and the pain is so bad for her. She called today and the receptionist said leave it for another day. The receptionist at this dental practice is very rude to their patients and she has been there for years and is very sarcastic. My wife has called in tears for the last 3 days and they dont want to help. They have also said that they wont be able to see her for another week.

The receptionist has basically thought it was an abscess in jaw. If it was, my wifes jaw would of been up like a golf ball by now. No dentist has checked on her and I personally think its a nerve problem.

I wasnt having any of it so I called another dentist and asked for their advice. They aparantly told me that no matter what if the patient is in so much pain, they have to see the patient within 24 hours. Also they said its Illegal for a non professional to prescribe Antibiotics or prescribe Antibiotics to a patient that hasnt been seen.

What I need is advice from people who know about these situations. I personally want to complain to the dentist as they have made my wifes life a misery. Is the other dentist right about the law and is there any way to report the bogus dentist. Your help is appreciated.
posted by spinko to Law & Government (10 answers total)
If this is on the NHS, there is an NHS complaints procedure. If not, or in addition, you can complain about the dentist to the General Dental Council.

The receptionist can't prescribe drugs, period, unless she's a professional. The drugs would have been prescribed by the dentist. I doubt there is a law generally prohibiting prescriptions for people who have not been seen with the alleged condition, and it appears your wife has seen this dentist before.

The NHS and GDC will be able to comment on whether this is suitable dental practice.
posted by grouse at 6:32 AM on April 26, 2006

It sounds very much like two things need to happen

1. You should contact the Dental Help Line "If you would like free expert advice on an oral health problem call 0845 063 1188 (9am to 5pm Monday to Friday) or click here." and they will likeely be able to give you help with your legal question.

2. Your wife needs to find a dentist who can see her and who she has a better rapport with ASAP. Regardless of the law involved, she is getting bad care if they are not being responsive to her needs.

I'm in the US and so I don't know anything about dental law, but I had a tooth problem recently and was in to see a regular dentist within a day and an endodontist within a few days.
posted by jessamyn at 6:33 AM on April 26, 2006

Pain in jaw. Who mentioned teeth?

Why didn't you drop in on your GP? An ordinary dentist is unlikely to be the right person to handle something that isn't teeth.
posted by Goofyy at 6:58 AM on April 26, 2006

I manage a dental office in the US, and I can say that it is possible that the dentist doesn't know this is going on. (If he/she knows, shame on the dentist) There are an amazing number of dental (and other health practices) with raging idiots at the front desk, and the doctor is heartbroken when he/she finds out three years too late and all the patients are gone.

If there is any way you can inform the dentist of this matter personally, please do so. The woman in his office reflects poorly on the whole dental profession. If this woman is his wife, or he defends her in any way, run to another practice.
posted by bilabial at 7:10 AM on April 26, 2006

If you would like free expert advice on an oral health problem call 0845 063 1188

0845 numbers aren't really "free."
posted by grouse at 7:23 AM on April 26, 2006

Thanks for your advice, the problem is actually the tooth and not the jaw. Sorry :(

Is it right for a practice to give out anti-biotics without actually seeing the patent?
posted by spinko at 7:28 AM on April 26, 2006

GP practices in the UK can certainly prescribe drugs for an existing patient without physically seeing them at the moment. I don't know why it would be different for a dentist.

As far as whether British dental professionals would deem this an acceptable use of discretion, you would be far better using the professional resources that people here have provided for you, then repeating the question here. Unless you just want a bunch of guesses.
posted by grouse at 7:35 AM on April 26, 2006

If there is pain in the tooth, and the patient is known to be okay with a specific prescription, then I'd say this is within reason. I would expect the dentist would know if a certain patient was a candidate for an abcess. I can't say whether it would be reasonable to assume an abcess in an unknown patient, IANAD.

The failure to deal with the pain is, IMO, inexcusable. Even if it were an abcess, the pain shouldn't go untreated.
posted by Goofyy at 7:56 AM on April 26, 2006

There are emergency dental clinics available. I know there is at least one in the (major UK) city that I live in. Call directory enquiries (118118) and ask for the local emergency dental clinic. Failing that, ring your GP's reception and ask them for the number.

Generally, you will then ring the clinic helpline and they should give you an appointment the same day or at least the day after.

I'm not sure what the procedure is on payment. I *believe* it is an NHS service so the emergency treatement should be free, but check first if you're short on cash.

Good luck, and I hope she feels better soon.
posted by pollystark at 8:48 AM on April 26, 2006

She could always go to the ER ('causalty department') if the pain is bad enough. I'm not 100% sure about the UK, but in Canada I've twice been to the ER to deal with trauma related tooth injuries. Follow up treatment was with my actual dentist, but both times there was a dentist in the building at the hospital who saw me (after some waiting...)
posted by tiamat at 10:41 AM on April 26, 2006

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