Cost of living pressures – NHS dental charge freeze is crucial
Dentists have called on the government to freeze NHS dental charges following the stark rise in the cost of living.
This comes after the government froze NHS prescription charges. Health secretary Sajid David stated: ‘The rise in the cost of living has been unavoidable…while we cannot completely prevent these rises, where we can help, we absolutely will.’
In a letter to Sajid David on behalf of all dentists in England, the BDA have asked for the same to apply to NHS dental treatment.
BDA chair, Eddie Crouch, wrote: ‘With inflation at a 40-year high, families now face real and growing pressures with the cost of living. Your stated belief that where government can help, it absolutely will, must be applied here.’
A 2009 dental health survey found that one in five adults delay dental treatment due to cost. Additionally, treatment charges from 2012 – 2020 rose annually at rates significantly above inflation.
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Vital first step
With the cost of living now at its highest in 40 years, dentists fear that the NHS dental service is becoming even more inaccessible.
‘No patient should have to choose between heating, eating or seeking NHS dental care,’ added Eddie.
‘A charge freeze is a vital first step, but the logic of recent hikes – that patients should pay more so government can pay less – must end.’
Even those eligible for free dental treatment are turning away.
Data shows that the treatment delivered to non-paying patients had fallen by a quarter before the pandemic. In 2020, as many 1.7m fewer adults accessed free dental treatment. This is without a parallel increase among paying adults.
The BDA believes this is due to confusion over eligibility due to changes to the benefit system.
Investment is key
Eddie continued: ‘The department has a stated commitment to ‘level-up’ dentistry. We want these pledges to have meaning. A fair funding settlement is required to underpin the rebuild and reform of the service.
‘It is not plausible to tackle the pandemic backlog, improve access and recruit and retain talent in the workforce on an inadequate, standstill budget.’
The BDA has estimated that a staggering £880 million of government funding is needed annually to simply ‘restore levels of resource to 2010 levels’.
Charge revenue dropped by nearly £0.6 billion during the first year of the pandemic.
Additionally, patients now have higher levels of need after a year of dentistry was lost during lockdown.
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