Hudgell Solicitors is supporting a number of patients treated by a dentist who fraudulently worked in Cottingham for more than a year under a false name and without being registered with the General Dental Council (GDC).
Ronnie Barogiannis – a dentist with a chequered history which included a major health scare at a practice he ran in Scotland – has admitted using false documentation to gain employment at the Smiles Hallgate House Dental Practice in Cottingham (now run by Oasis Dental Care) between August 2013 and October 2014.
As a result of his actions, he has now admitted a criminal charge of fraud by false representation, and five charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH), which the GDC says relates to patients who were left with permanent damage to their teeth.
He is to be sentenced in court later this month.
Mr Barogiannis had previously been owner of the Bridge of Don Dental Clinic and Research Centre in Aberdeen, a practice which was the subject of a police probe in 2012, after an NHS inspection highlighted that poor hygiene measures did not meet national standards.
Concerns were raised over staff training, record-keeping and dental instruments not being sterilised properly, forcing the practice to send letters to 900 patients, alerting them to the potential risk of blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis.
The following year, Mr Barogiannis became the first dentist in Scotland to be prosecuted for practising illegally, pleading guilty to working without registering with the General Dental Council, which regulates the profession.
Despite this, he was still able to gain employment at the Cottingham practice in August 2013, the GDC has confirmed on its website.
It says he earned more than £48,000 over the next 14 months, working at the practice in Hallgate by using the name and documents of a dentist he had previously employed.
Mr Barogiannis was finally found out and interviewed by police about the allegations shortly after the practice had changed hands in October 2014. He denied the allegations and fled, failing to answer bail.
The GDC says a European Arrest Warrant was issued on January 26 of this year for offences of fraud by false representation, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. This resulted in his arrest in Sweden and extradition to the UK.
Ashleigh Dance, a dental claims specialist at Hudgell Solicitors, is considering legal claims for negligent treatment and assault on behalf of around a dozen patients who have contacted the firm following treatment from Mr Barogiannis.
She said: “We have consistently called for stricter laws around the registration of dentists, the insurance cover they have, and for practices to be held accountable in situations such as this.
“Serious questions have to be asked in this case as to how he was able to gain employment under a false name and without registration at this practice, and why he was able to get away with it for so long.
“Our clients have been very shocked to learn that that dentist they have been seeing for some time was not the person he claimed to be, and was not even a registered dentist. People don’t expect this when going to a reputable practice.
“This case is sadly a great example of how loose regulations of the dental industry are letting patients down badly. Currently, there is no legal requirement for dentists to have professional insurance, which creates risk immediately for patients.
“The GDC only recommends that practising dentists maintain adequate professional indemnity, which provides cover for a person for any claim made against them in a professional environment. However, this is not regulated tightly enough at all, and although the majority of dentists do take cover, there are many dentists who do not and simply get away with it until things go wrong.
“When errors are made, these dentists, many of whom have trained abroad, can then quickly disappear off the radar as soon as they face a string of complaints, leaving patients facing having to pay considerable sums of money out of their own pockets for remedial work, which on many occasions, they cannot afford.
“This is simply unacceptable and there is clear need for change in law to better protect dental patients, who are increasingly being placed at risk. It is unacceptable that this sort of thing can happen in this day and age.
“We believe that firstly, all dentists should be made to have personal insurance cover for any period they are registered under the GDC as a practicing dentist. It should be fully checked before they gain registration.
“Secondly, we strongly feel the dental practices themselves must also be held to account should they be found to have employed someone who is underqualified or uninsured, for the protection of patients. We will certainly be looking at that with regards to the patients we represent.”
In the GDC statement, posted on its website, Francesca Keen, Head of Illegal Practice, said of the case: “This is a case that demonstrates just how severe the consequences of illegal dental practice can be for the victim.
“It is a stark reminder for patients to ensure they check our register of dental professionals before agreeing to treatment from any member of the dental team and for employers to be vigilant in relation to checking their employee’s entitlement to practise.
“This hearing will hopefully reassure the public that the GDC is protecting the public by helping police to tackle fraud.
“It is illegal for any individual to carry out dental treatment without being on one of our registers for dentists or dental professionals as they lack both the skill and knowledge to practise safely. The case highlights the limits that people will go to, to commit fraud.
“We urge anyone who suspects there is illegal activity happening to contact us so we can investigate.”
The sale of Smiles Hallgate House Dental Practice to Oasis Dental Care was announced in May 2014. Barogiannis worked at the practice before the sale and after, before finally being caught.
Patients received a letter from the practice in October 2014, by which time it was under the new ownership of Oasis, informing them their dentist had been unregistered and practicing under a false name.
**Pictured: The former Smiles Dental Practice in Cottingham, where the unregistered dentist fraudulently worked. Patients were informed of the situation in October 2014, shortly after the business was taken over by Oasis Dental Care.
The man has now pleaded guilty to fraud and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.