Swords Orthodontics
17 Main St, Swords, Co Dublin, Ireland

'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.

“’’Ello, miss?”

“What do you mean, miss?”

"I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint."

A fine living example of the Norweigian Blue parrot.
Very much alive, no cause for complaint. Photo by Simon Shim on Unsplash

....and thus begins the most famous sketch in the history of TV comedy. To be honest, Monty Python never made me laugh much apart from the cartoons (not unrelated to the fact that I hadn't started school when they were at their peak) and even looking at it now, it seems beyond me what people found funny about it back in the 70s. But it probably was important and revolutionary because of what people were used to for the decade before. Our new associate, Claire Higgins is a massive fan of Monty Python - I must ask her.

Another Swords Ortho colleague had a real life, parrot-free complaint during the week. It's debatable whether they got any more satisfaction than Mr Praline (ie Michael Palin) at the Python Pet Parrot Shop. They had ordered some new windows, paid a deposit, and never heard again from the glazing company. Phone calls weren't returned, emails weren't answered. "Steve, what do I do next?"

"Call Joe Duffy?"

Joe Duffy runs a radio show in Ireland that deals with consumer issues, and on more serious days with the failure of the state to look after citizens. He actually presented a couple of certificates to Swords Orthodontics a few years ago when we were shortlisted for the Sensodyne Sensitive Dentistry Awards – though I doubt he’d remember us well enough to lead a crusade against some dodgy double glazing dealers. I actually got in touch with Joe Duffy's Liveline show for consumer issues a few months ago when I used a well-known Irish company to book a hotel room and when I checked in, the hotel insisted on selling me the room at a different price to the booking site's "confirmation". When I took the matter up with the booking site they said they had no control over the price the hotel charged, and when I dealt with the hotel they said the booking site had no authority to commit them to a room price. I had exhausted all my means of redress in 24 hours, no wonder I contacted Joe Duffy's Liveline.

But clearly, when you contact a phone in show to sort out some double glazing the process has collapsed badly. It’s pretty much the last recourse short of the courts.

In dentistry in Ireland, the process is very different. Firstly, all dentists are regulated by an organisation (the Dental Council) which obliges us not just to respond to complaints, but also to have a complaints policy, which has to be displayed in a prominent place in the dental practice (in Swords Orthodontics, ours is in the waiting room). And if a complaint isn’t sorted out to a patient’s satisfaction then there is a structure in place to deal with it long before Joe Duffy or anyone else needs to be involved. In that case, the patient can bring it to the Irish Dental Complaints Resolution Service. That service is free to patients, and would resolve a problem much faster than legal action (and clearly at a much smaller cost to the patient).

Dentists have to be accountable to our patients, as we don’t have the option of heading to Alberta to become Lumberjacks at short notice.

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