Patient who had wisdom tooth removed left with nerve damage on tongue

NHS Highland has been ordered by a watchdog to apologise to a patient for not warning them of the side effect.

SPSO order NHS Highland to apologise after wisdom tooth removal left patient with nerve damage in tongue iStock

A health board has been ordered to issue an apology after a wisdom tooth extraction left the patient with nerve damage in their tongue.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) has instructed NHS Highland to apologise to the patient, referred to as ‘C’ to protect their anonymity.

C had a wisdom tooth extracted by health professionals with the board, and experienced an “altered sensation” in their tongue after the procedure.

They were advised that the sensation was probably the result of nerve damage, which was a possible side effect of the extraction.

When C complained that they had not been informed of this possible side effect before the surgery, the board referred to a handwritten note on the consent form signed prior to the extraction – a note that C claimed had not been present when they signed.

The SPSO consulted a dentist to investigate this complaint thoroughly, and while it could not definitively say who was right, it did find that the board did not inform C appropriately.

It maintains that even if the note was present on the consent form, the patient should have been made aware of the why the extraction was considered necessary, possible side effects, alternative treatment options and the “percentage likelihood of nerve damage”.

The watchdog ultimately found the board did not reasonably advise C that nerve damage was a possible side effect of the extraction of a wisdom tooth as required and upheld the complaint.

The SPSO also set out a recommendation in its report, and suggested: “Patients are provided with clear information of the nature of the proposed dental treatment, the purpose of treatment, the risks and benefits to treatment in comparison to no treatment and any alternative treatment options, and valid consent is obtained and recorded in line with the General Dental Council’s Standards For The Dental Team Principles.”

A spokesperson for NHS Highland said: “We are very sorry that the level of diligence expected was not applied in ensuring informed consent and full understanding during this patient’s treatment. We have contacted them directly to apologise and update them on what we have changed as part of our learning.

“Since the complaint we have updated our Patient Information Leaflet to ensure patients have all the relevant information and can make an informed choice prior to the procedure. We have also updated the consent form used for General Anaesthetic procedures. The report has also been shared with senior clinical staff and the staff involved in the patient’s care.”

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