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Victoria Holden

Defusing Complaints

Mark Macleod

Complaints are a frequent source of concern and anxiety to dental clinicians in the current practising climate. Set against a backdrop of rising complaints, dentists are also facing increasing litigation. They are further subjected to intensified clinical oversight and regulation by bodies such as the General Dental Council and the Care Quality Commission, and ultimately the rising costs of indemnity cover. Navigating the path of complaint resolution can be arduous and without a framework to successfully manage it, some clinicians may be ill equipped to do so, relying at best on well-meant but dubious advice from colleagues on social media platforms. Resolving complaints well at local level is very much in the best interests of both the clinician and the patient. It offers the clinician protection against escalation of the complaint which can be very costly in terms of financial expense and long-term stress. A well-handled complaint affords the patient reassurance that their issue has been taken seriously and resolved appropriately and adequately which ultimately keeps matters out of the hands of the lawyers. Dealing with complaints well at local level improves public confidence in the dental profession which has the additional benefit of keeping the General Dental Council and other bodies at bay.

This lecture will look at why some of the complaints we deal with might arise and what underlying factors might have motivated the patient to complain, and will explore some of the potential strategies we could all employ for robustly diffusing complaints at a local level.

Learning Objectives

  • To be aware of some of the factors that underpin why a complaint might materialise
  • To understand ways to avoid complaints from escalating to lawyers and regulatory bodies
  • To learn about tips and tricks for dealing with complaining patients
  • To understand what is best practice for handling complaints
  • To be aware why social media forums may not always be helpful when dealing with a complaint
  • To understand why your indemnity provider should always be approached to assist with a complaint


Victoria Holden qualified in 1999 from Sheffield University. Having spent her formative years after graduating working in NHS general practice in the North East she moved to the South East where she ultimately became a partner in a large private multi-disciplinary practice in Newbury, Berkshire. Victoria has completed several post-graduate qualifications with the Faculty of General Dental Practitioners including the Membership examination, the Diploma in Implant Dentistry and the Fellowship in General Dental Practice. She subsequently undertook an LLM in Medical Law at Northumbria University and during the course of that healthcare law qualification she took many instructions as an expert witness, mainly in clinical negligence cases.

In February 2017 Victoria became a Dental Advisor for Taylor Defence Services (England and Wales) where she provides advice to their clients on dental issues and complaints and offers assistance and support to those facing clinical negligence and regulatory proceedings.

Victoria is a moderator on a number of dentistry-related groups including GDPUK, The Dentist UK, Dental Ethics and Dilemmas and The Effective Clinical Expert Witness on Facebook. She has previously lectured on legal and regulatory matters and contributed to a number of books on dental topics.

Victoria is also a qualified life coach and is passionate about maintaining a good work life balance in dentistry. Outside of dentistry Victoria is a keen runner and lives with her husband, children and dogs near Hungerford in West Berkshire.

Qualifications: BDS MFGDP(UK) DipImpDent RCS(Eng) FFGDP(UK) LLM