‘Utterly wrongheaded’ – NHS dental charges to increase by 5% before Christmas

NHS dental charges in England will increase by 5% just before Christmas, it has been announcedNHS dental charges in England will increase by 5% just before Christmas, it has been announced. 

After it was postponed in April due to the onset of the pandemic, the hike will now come into force from 14 December 2020.

The new fees mean:

  • A routine check up will increase by £1.10. This means it will rise from £22.70 to £23.80
  • Treatments including root canals and extractions will increase by £3.10 – from £62.10 to £65.20
  • Additionally, procedures such as crowns, bridges and dentures will rise by £13.50, from £269.30 to £282.80.

This has sparked criticism from the British Dental Association (BDA), which has slammed the move for its untimely introduction.

Short-sighted approach

Dave Cottam is chair of the British Dental Association’s general dental practice. He said: ‘Slapping higher dental charges on patients struggling to secure care in a pandemic is utterly wrongheaded.

‘This inflation-busting hike won’t put an extra penny into a service in crisis. Or help millions currently unable to get an appointment.

‘We’ve appealed to government for support to bring down the backlogs. Sadly this short-sighted approach will only give lower-income, higher-risk patients more reasons not to attend.

‘Dentists are health professionals not tax collectors. These charges have ceased to be a “contribution” and are now simply a substitute for decent state investment.’

Calls for funding

So far, the profession has an estimated backlog of more than 19 million dental appointments. The BDA warns that costs are a significant barrier to patients.

For example, the Adult Oral Health Survey revealed that for 26% of the public, cost influences their choice of dental treatment.

Consequently, the profession is calling on the government to supply funding for ventilation equipment. This would allow practices to dramatically decrease the required fallow time – cited as a major barrier to capacity – therefore enabling better access.

Author’s analysis

An end-of-year NHS price hike is the last thing the dental profession – and the public – needs to round off an immensely difficult 2020.

With pre-COVID access troubles already exacerbated by the virus, the fear is this will make it harder for dentistry to bounce back.

Patients are already suffering with increased dental problems and many more have faced months of financial uncertainty.

Not only will this serve as a deterrent for patients in pain, it will also be another added challenge for practices and their teams.

And with November marking Mouth Cancer Action Month, it is worrying to imagine the future state of the nation’s oral and general health.

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