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Dentist who let a receptionist X-ray patient facing inquiry over complaints about his work

By Lisa Smyth

Published 19/08/2016

Dentist Robert McMitchell at the General Dental Council
Dentist Robert McMitchell at the General Dental Council

A dentist who was allowed to continue working after letting his receptionist X-ray a patient is at the centre of another official investigation, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The General Dental Council (GDC) has imposed a series of restrictions on the licence of Robert McMitchell after receiving a number of complaints about work he carried out.

Explaining the decision to put the conditions in place, the GDC said the "allegations are serious" and that without the restrictions "patients would be placed at a real risk of harm".

They are due to remain in place until the end of the year while the GDC, which is responsible for ensuring dentists provide safe care, continues its probe into a series of alleged failings by Mr McMitchell.

The conditions placed on his licence mean he is not allowed to carry out any bridge or implant work and must also notify the GDC of any disciplinary action taken against him.

The GDC launched an investigation after the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) raised concerns about the "standard of care, treatment and record-keeping" for 15 patients.

A professor of restorative dentistry also made a number of criticisms about the treatment provided by Mr McMitchell to nine patients.

The GDC additionally received a separate complaint from another dentist in relation to four of Mr Mitchell's patients.

An expert appointed by the GDC to examine the case said the care provided to the four patients between 1994 and 2014 "fell significantly below the level of professional practice reasonably expected in a range of areas".

Among the concerns raised by the GDC's expert were poor diagnosis and treatment planning, poor communication with the patient and failings in relation to consent for treatment.

At the same time as the GDC carries out its investigation, the RQIA is also taking action against eight dental surgeries owned by Mr McMitchell.

The health watchdog is refusing to register three of his surgeries - Ballymena Dental Care, Donaghadee Dental Surgery and Dundonald Dental Surgery. It has imposed conditions on the registration of five other surgeries as a result of the GDC action.

In July 2008, Mr McMitchell was found guilty of misconduct by the GDC's professional conduct committee after admitting allowing an untrained member of staff to take X-rays, which he monitored by CCTV.

The GDC said: "Your use of CCTV to observe the X-ray machine was a wholly inappropriate way of supervising that process".

However, it went on to state that it was not a case where his clinical practice had been found to be substandard, and that no patients were put at risk or came to any harm.

It continued: "You had a confidence - clearly misplaced - in your practice manager's competence. However, at the time, you did not appreciate the less than satisfactory way in which your practice was being administered. You have now accepted responsibility for those deficiencies".

The GDC said it was satisfied Mr Mitchell had taken steps to address all issues.

It added: "The committee trusts that you have learnt a salutary lesson from these events, and will be extra vigilant in the way you run your practice.

"In all the circumstances the committee has concluded that your misconduct falls short of the threshold required to reach that of impairment and it does not therefore go on to consider the question of sanction".

Belfast Telegraph

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