A solicitor representing a large number of patients treated by a fraudulent dentist who wasn’t legally registered to practise says the case has highlighted the need for much stricter regulations of the dental profession.
Ronnie Barogiannis used false documentation to work at the Smiles Hallgate House Dental Practice in Cottingham, East Yorkshire between August 2013 and October 2014.
He was not registered as a dentist with the General Dental Council (GDC) and had been previously prosecuted in Scotland for the same offence.
Barogiannis, who had also previously been the centre of a major health scare due to poor hygiene standards at his practice in Scotland, was today sentenced to a total of five and a half years.
It came after he admitted a criminal charge of fraud by false representation, and five charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH), relating to patients who were left with permanent damage to their teeth.
Ashleigh Dance, of Hudgell Solicitors, specialises in securing compensation for those who suffer from negligent dental treatment.
She is now providing legal support to more than a dozen people who were patients at the practice at the time and received treatment from Barogiannis, and says the case has highlighted not only the need for patients to research the backgrounds of the dentists they use, but also for stronger laws to be introduced across the profession to hold dentists and practices to account.
“This has really been a shocking case. How can it be that a dental surgery allows patients to be treated by a man who is not even registered by the General Dental Council for more than a year?
“There are two main areas of concern around the dental profession at present. Firstly, it is simply not regulated tightly enough at all, leaving patients at risk.
“General Dental Council guidance says all dental practitioners in the UK should be insured against instances of negligence, but there is no law to enforce it, and due to this lack of firm law there are dentists practicing who are not covered.
“We’ve represented clients who have found that their dentist has absconded when they have become aware of potential claims being made against them for negligence, leaving the patient potentially facing large bills for remedial work.
“Secondly, many dentists are carrying out treatment they have little or no experience in, such as cosmetic procedures like veneers, laser whitening and teeth straightening, simply because they are now increasingly in demand from patients, and they money spinners for the dentists.
“Again, patients are being let down by loose regulations, as dentists don’t need specific qualifications or training in the specific procedures. It is down to the patient to research their experience and quality.
“We at Hudgell Solicitors 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.
“We believe 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, as happened in this case.”
Mrs Dance says patients of the Cottingham practice who were unhappy with the treatment they received from Barogiannis were angry to be told they had been seeing a man who was not even a registered dentist.
The practice was sold to Oasis Dental Care in May 2014, with clients contacted in the October about the issue by the new owners.
For many of these patients it has been a long time getting to this stage. Some first contacted us in October 2014 but Barogiannis fled the country and was only returned to the UK following a police investigation in January.
There are certainly many areas of concern with regards to the treatment our clients received from him when he was illegally working and carrying out dental procedures under a false identity. We are supporting those patients now and are happy to speak to anybody else who was a patient of his if they have any concerns over their treatment.