A new helpline for struggling dentists

A new helpline for struggling dentists

Jeremy Cooper NHS Confidence Monitor - Industry comments Leave a Comment

One dentist is on a ‘personal mission’ to create a helpline to support his colleagues. Jeremy Cooper, who graduated in 1982 and is now based in Salford, wants to set up a 24-hour one-stop-shop phone helpline, backed up by a website, for dentists. It would be run by dentist volunteers offering advice and signposting callers who need help with any problem, whether it’s personal, professional, financial, legal, emotional, etc.

The idea for ‘Confidental’ was borne due to Jeremy’s increasing concern about the mental health of his fellow dental professionals.

He said, ‘I first mentioned this idea a few years ago but at the time it never really gained traction, however, over the past two years two dentists in my area have committed suicide. I was speaking to a colleague afterwards who said, ‘I wish I had done more’, which resonated with me and probably is something many of us have felt, and this was the catalyst for me thinking that something really needs to be done now.

‘The mental health of the profession has declined since I first qualified, with the advent of the CQC and other pressures, such as the GDC, and the exponential growth of complaints and litigation.

‘Despite all this, I love my job and I just want to give something back, which is why I am determined to get this helpline up and running.’

“The mental health of the profession has declined since I first qualified”

The pressures being faced by dentists and the impact on their mental health was highlighted in the results from the latest Confidence Monitor survey of NHS and private dentists. The survey showed that 91% of NHS dentists said they were unable to carry out their work without feeling overly stressed, 89% of NHS and 63% of private dentists were anxious about the risk of complaints, and 92% of NHS and 65% of private dentists were anxious about the risk of litigation.

80%  of NHS and 51% of private dentists also said they were anxious about their ability to meet the standards set by the GDC. In a recent Facebook poll by dentist Stephen Hudson, 61% of respondents said that they, or someone they knew, had suffered mental health issues that required professional treatment due to a Fitness to Practice (FtP) case.

Jeremy added, ‘People do castigate the GDC, but I would rather be policed by them – and I believe the profession does need policing – as an organisation that we are already familiar with, rather than an unknown government department.

‘I agree with many others that there are complaints that should never reach the tribunal stage, there should be a triaging system where more informal complaints can be fast-tracked and dealt with outside of a tribunal. This would probably still create some stress, but not as much as an FtP hearing and it would also take less time and be more cost-effective.

“I agree with many others that there are complaints that should never reach the tribunal stage, there should be a triaging system where more informal complaints can be fast-tracked and dealt with outside of a tribunal.”

‘But, I think that as a profession we need to be proactively communicating with the GDC about how we can work together and improve the pathway of dealing with complaints to reduce the number of FtP cases.’

During his 36 years in practice Jeremy has faced challenges that many in the profession have also experienced, including dealing with tribunals, financial and tax issues, and complaints, and therefore appreciates the stress that these things can cause. It is his recognition that there is significant pressure in the profession and that people will react differently to such issues which has led him to establishing this helpline. He has already been in conversation and had meetings with practising dentists and representatives from dental bodies such as the FGDP, BDA, BDIA, the major indemnifiers, Henry Schein, the GDC and the BDA Benevolent Fund.

He remains open to ideas for exactly how Confidental would work but essentially it would provide a listening and signposting service for other organisations, as well as mentoring where appropriate. Those answering the phone would be fully trained, and the next step is for a two-day training conference to be held in London in January. The conference will include lectures from Relate, Mind, Samaritans, Dentists’ Health Support Trust, the GDC, the CQC and the NHS, as well as a course on listening skills and personality style awareness training.

Jeremy said, ‘We’re hoping the service will be up and running in 2019, and I will stop at nothing to get this helpline up and running because it is desperately needed. There will always be stress in he profession but hopefully we can alleviate this somewhat and help our profession to keep going and not give up.’

“We’re hoping the service will be up and running in 2019, and I will stop at nothing to get this helpline up and running because it is desperately needed.”

For more information, or to get involved with the helpline contact Jeremy on: jeremycooper@jeremycooper.co.uk

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