There may be times when you are concerned about the dental treatment you have received. Every year there are thousands of dental consultations in New Zealand. The vast majority of patients are very happy with their treatment; a small number are dissatisfied. If you, or a member of your family is unhappy about the service or the fee charged, help and advice is available.
Talk to your practitioner firstMany problems can be avoided by making sure you have plenty of information before you have any dental treatment. You can expect an estimate of treatment costs, an outline of treatment alternatives, a detailed account following treatment, and an established complaints procedure from your oral health practitioner. You are also entitled to seek a second opinion.
Confidence in your PractitionerThe Health Regulatory Authorities of New Zealand, with the support of the Ministry of Health, have produced a brochure outlining what the HPCA Act covers and how it benefits you. The Confidence in Your Practitioner brochure is available from the Dental Council (or any other health regulatory authority) or a PDF version can be viewed on-line (you need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this document).
If you are unhappy, you should contact your practitioner first, either directly or write a letter. If after contacting your practitioner you feel your problem still hasn't been solved, there are other sources of help available.
Health and Disability CommissionerThe Health and Disability Commissioner is an independent agency set up to promote and protect the rights of consumers who use health and disability services; and to help resolve problems between consumers and providers of health and disability services. Refer to the Health and Disability Commissioner's website for more information www.hdc.org.nz.
The Commissioner makes an initial assessment of the complaint and may decide to investigate it further. In this case, the Commissioner will form an opinion as to whether the provider has breached the Code of Health and Disability Service Consumers' Rights, and notify the parties of the findings. The Commissioner's options on finding a breach of the Code include making reports and recommendations to interested parties.
Consumer Rights - The Health and Disability Commissioner enforces a Code of Consumers' Rights, which gives all consumers of health and disability services ten rights.
These rights are listed on the website of the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) at www.hdc.org.nz.
The Dental Council of New Zealand (DCNZ)The Dental Council can give you information and practical advice on how to deal with any problems or concerns you may have relating to a practitioner or refer you to someone who can assist you.
The Dental Council also investigates complaints against practitioners when these are referred to the Council by the Health and Disability Commissioner. Complaints are investigated by a Professional Standards Committee made up of two oral health practitioners and one lay member. If having investigated the complaint, the Professional Standards Committee considers it to be of a serious nature, it may decide to lay a charge against the practitioner before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal. If the case comes before the Tribunal for action and is proven, the practitioner will be disciplined. The Tribunal can impose penalties ranging from fining the practitioner, ordering that the practitioner practise only under certain conditions (for example under supervision), to suspension or cancellation of registration. However, neither the Dental Council nor the Tribunal can order that compensation be paid or that faulty dental work be remedied.
The New Zealand Dental AssociationThe Dental Association is a separate organisation, independent of the Dental Council. Most but not all dentists choose to belong to the Dental Association.
If you are unhappy about the quality or appropriateness of treatment provided by a dentist or dental specialist you may seek help from the Dental Association in your area. The Dental Association can often resolve problems by informally mediating between the practitioner and the consumer. If necessary your case could progress to a regional Peer Review - which may include a formal examination at no cost to you. A Peer Review committee will evaluate all the evidence and make a fair and impartial judgement. (Write to PO Box 28-084, Remuera, Auckland or Phone (09) 524 2778, fax (09) 520 5256, or access the NZDAs website (www.healthysmiles.org.nz)).
The Disputes Tribunal (or Small Claims Court)The Disputes Tribunal provides New Zealanders with a quick, inexpensive, informal and private way to help resolve a wide range of civil disputes. Disputes Tribunals are not like the formal courts. There are no lawyers or judges. A referee who has been carefully selected and trained hears a dispute. Any ruling they make is binding and will, if necessary, be enforced by the courts. If your claim is for $15,000 or less (or $20,000 if both parties agree) and is disputed then it may be able to be heard by the Disputes Tribunal. For further information please refer to the Disputes Tribunal website: www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/disputes-tribunal
Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) administers New Zealand's accident compensation scheme which provides personal injury cover for all New Zealand citizens, residents and temporary visitors to New Zealand. For further information about ACC claims, refer to the ACC website - www.acc.co.nz.