Government launches investigation into dental fines

dental finesThe National Audit Office is launching an investigation into healthcare penalty charge notices in Spring this year.

It will be looking at the number of penalties issued, outcomes, revenue generated and the cost of running the service.

The Government issues more than 400,000, £100 fines each year, many for patients ticking the wrong box on claim forms.

‘This investigation is welcome news,’ Charlotte Waite, chair of the BDA’s England Community Dental Services Committee said

‘The Government’s approach to penalty charges has hit hundreds of thousands of vulnerable patients.

‘And encouraged millions more to miss out on care.

‘Ministers have told patients not to run the risk when claiming.

‘But offered precious little to make navigating the system any easier.’

‘Hostile environment’

NHS Dental Statistics have revealed a 23% fall in attendance from patients exempt from NHS charges over the last four years.

The number of fines issued has increased from 33,887 in 2012/13 to 427,238 in 2017/18.

Despite this increase, 90% of the cases that are appealed are won.

‘It doesn’t matter if you’re a patient, a parent or a carer,’ Ms Waite continued.

‘Ticking the wrong box on a form should not come with a £100 fine.

‘Yes, we need a system to protect taxpayer’s money.

‘But that does not mean constructing a hostile environment for patients, many of whom have complex needs.

‘An aggressive policy that hurts those who most need the NHS requires real scrutiny.’

Scattergun approach

The BDA has previously condemned the NHS’s approach to fining patients.

Freedom of information requests show that there were 724,635 penalty charge notices for dental treatment between 2014 and 2017.

Of which 210,972 fines were paid, whilst 174,679 had an exemption confirmed.

‘Sadly tough talk on rooting out fraud has gone hand in hand with a totally indiscriminate approach to fines,’ Ms Waite said at the time.

‘It’s ludicrous that nearly as many appeals are won as penalties are actually paid.

‘These fines are now hitting hundreds of thousands of patients – many who are vulnerable or on low incomes – who have simply done nothing wrong.’

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