"Won't let shift workers see students"

About: Charles Clifford Dental Hospital

I am a shift worker and had an initial appointment for free treatment from a student. The dentist seeing me asked what days I was free, and when I told them I work shifts they refused me. I explained that I am able to take time off for appointments, and that I just need to know the dates, but they were unreasonable and still refused me. This dentist hadn't even looked to see if I even needed treatment or asked what problems I was having. Thoroughly unimpressed.

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Response from Deborah Hopkinson, Patient Experience Co-ordinator, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Thank you for posting your thoughts on Patient Opinion. I was very sorry to hear of your experience. Your comments have been escalated and we will respond more fully in the near future once we have had time to look into this matter.

Kind regards
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Response from Deborah Hopkinson, Patient Experience Co-ordinator, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Further to my earlier email, please find below the service's response to your comment:

The Charles Clifford Dental Hospital (CCDH) provides secondary care (specialist) treatment to patients that require specialist care because the treatment required is too complex - This treatment is provided only by trained/qualified dentists and patients will have been referred for this by their own dentist.

The CCDH also provides primary care treatment (similar to that of a high street dentist) by students that are training to become dentists, therapists or hygienists.

Because these care providers are students, they have to work under certain criterion that takes into account their student course timetable and the complexity of the care that the patient requires. As such, and in order to ensure that we manage the care of our patients effectively, we implement an initial screening system that checks for the suitability of pairing up the patient's seeking treatment on the student clinics and the ability of our students to provide this care.

One of the suitability requirements is that any prospective patient is able to be completely flexible with their attendance so that they can match this to the student's course timetable. For this we require that patients can attend on an any-day, any-time basis so that the patient's appointments can be provided in a regular basis and not affected by the fluctuations in the student’s timetable as they progress through the course. Failure to match the student's timetable to the patient's availability results in delays of treatment with a potentially negative impact in the patient's care.

In this situation, it would seem that the service’s 'any-day, any-time availability policy' has been correctly implemented at the screening stage, although somewhat inflexibly given that you could arrange your shift work to make yourself available to match the student timetable. It is felt that you were not being discriminated by virtue of working a shift pattern but that you have been considered not suitable to be treated on our student clinics as there would be a likely incompatibility of timetables and appointments, making it very difficult if not impossible to provide effective continuing care.

In view of this interpretation of the suitability criteria the service will review the guidance we give when undertaking the suitability screening stage to allow consideration of situations such as this.

I hope that this explanation is helpful. Kind regards.

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