Bridge the Gap
Campaigning for justice (An industry award finalist)
The Dental Law Partnership (DLP) is the leading dental litigation firm in the UK, dealing with 60% of all negligence cases brought against dentists.
The DLP’s brief was to create and implement a campaign to raise awareness of two worrying facts. Firstly, that UK dentists had no legal obligation to be insured to treat patients. Secondly, dental defence organisations that provided insurance could choose not to engage in the claims process if not instructed by their member – even when there was a clear and reasonable case to answer.
According to figures from the General Dental Council (GCD), the DLP estimated that this legal loophole had put some quarter of a million dental patients at risk and had a direct effect on those seeking compensation for negligence.
The failure to engage with the voluntary process of indemnity – often by an increasing number of foreign-trained dentists – was a key factor and was clearly evidenced in many patient stories.
The key campaign objectives were to support the publication of a White Paper that set out the DLP’s position on these issues and steps being taken by the Government to tackle them. This included making dental patients across the UK aware of the issue and to lobby key groups to change the law to provide better protection to dental patients.
Key audiences included: the Department of Health (Westminster Health Forum on dental care); the General Dental Council and other healthcare regulatory bodies; MPs with an interest in healthcare or with victims within their constituency; Patient Associations and PCTs; dental defence organisations; dentists; the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL); Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA); health and news media; dental trade media; existing DLP clients and pre-clients whose cases could not be progressed.
The campaign was launched outside the Houses of Parliament with supporters, MPs and victims holding banners and distributing specifically produced literature.
Souter PR supported the campaign by sourcing real life stories of dental negligence from uninsured dentists – introducing these constituents to their MPs to also drive awareness of the issues on a local and political level. These case studies were further supported by a petition launched via the campaign website to allow people to show their support.
Souter PR produced tailored letters to accompany the White Paper that were sent to relevant government and regulatory bodies, MPs, legal firms and personal contacts and supporters of the cause to explain the issue.
A carefully planned, timely and relevant programme of media engagement was undertaken over the 12-month campaign period – liaising with health and news journalists and dental media to drive coverage of the issue. Media relations were supplemented by monthly e-mail updates to the DLP’s database of supporters, petitioners and interested parties.
Coverage highlights include two national media interviews with former chair of the General Dental Council, Evlynne Gilvarry, on BBC Five Live and BBC Radio 4. Channel 4’s ‘Rip Off Britain’ programme also covered the issue.
The campaign eventually helped close the legal loophole and all dentists are now legally required to be insured to treat patients.