Project title

A South African qualitative study of patients’ complaints and devising strategies to preventing these through the ethics training of dentists


South Africa


Patient complaints are formal expressions of dissatisfaction regarding any step or action taken by a practitioner in the care process. It is important to manage complaints well when they arise, in order to minimise their impact on patients and healthcare practitioners.

Little is known about the detailed underlying causes for complaints against practitioners in the dental profession. There is a need, therefore, to explore the reasons why patients complain. Previous research indicates that non-clinical factors are generally implicated in patient complaints. Available research in this domain is however outdated.

Complaint letters are a useful source of information to explore the source of patient complaints but remain underused for this purpose. Information from this source could be used to develop strategies to prevent, manage, and resolve complaints.


This study will use a mixed methods approach to identify potential “items” and emerging themes that could inform strategies to prevent, minimise, manage, and resolve patient complaints through ethics training from anonymised written correspondences between complaining patients and a complaints mediator in South Africa.


The study has the potential to inform us about different patient complaint themes and how the strategies that could be used to prevent, minimise, manage, and resolve patient complaints through training.