Sheilagh contacted POhWER after receiving treatment from the dental practice. Sheilagh wasn’t satisfied with the treatment she received and believed she was discriminated against due to having a hearing impairment. She is registered deaf and requires a BSL interpreter for her appointments.

Sheilagh was referred to a private dental practice for treatment but a BSL interpreter wasn’t provided for Sheilagh and they asked her to bring a friend or family member with her instead. Sheilagh did not think this was appropriate and explained to her dental practice that she didn’t have anyone she could bring.

Sheilagh requested to be seen at the dental hospital instead but a BSL interpreter couldn’t be booked at short notice, so this wasn’t an option she could explore either. Sheilagh was left for months without treatment following which her options were limited and her tooth had to be removed.

Sheilagh met with Donna, a POhWER NHS Complaints Advocate, along with a BSL interpreter in order to discuss her case and draft a complaint letter. Donna explained the complaints process and Sheilagh’s rights. Sheilagh wished to pursue a formal complaint as she felt an informal investigation wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the severity of the issue. Donna supported Sheilagh to submit a complaint to her Dental Practice and to the private clinic so a joint response could be provided. Sheilagh requested written responses to her complaint and opted out of the option for a resolution meeting.

Donna also explained Sheilagh’s options to Involve NHS England and at the second stage of the complaint process to escalate the complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO).

Subsequent contact between Sheilagh and Donna was maintained via email and 3 way calls with a BSL Interpreter on a video link as these were Sheilagh’s preferred methods of communication.

The response from the private clinic was that they weren’t made aware that Sheilagh wasn’t able to bring someone with her to support her with BSL interpretation. Sheilagh had informed her own dental practice of this, but they didn’t pass this on to the private clinic.

Sheilagh highlighted this breakdown in communication to both clinics. Her feedback was taken on board and changes have now been made to the policies and the working relationships between the two practices. Their policies have been changed so that when a referral is made/received and it shows that a client has additional needs that this information is acted on and if contact with the client is not successful, this information will be relayed back to the original referrer.

Sheilagh felt that the responses she received were not enough to satisfy her complaint and she has now requested for NHS England to look over the responses and request a final response from both practices before deciding how to pursue the case.

In accessing the POhWER independent NHS complaints advocacy service, Sheilagh was supported, appropriately informed on her right to make a complaint, the complaints process and relevant timeframes.

Sheilagh felt confident with Donna’s support as it was coming from an Independent service; her trust in the NHS had been damaged by her experience with the dental service. Sheilagh has said she wouldn’t have been able to make the complaint independently, due to her disability and lack of knowledge of the process. Without the Advocacy service she wouldn’t have been able to feedback to the dental practice about her experience and this would have caused further issues for Sheilagh, especially as she is still a patient of the Practice and needs further treatment.