Dentists urged to be clear when communicating fees to patients

Dentists urged to be clear when communicating fees to patients

Dental professionals should be clear when communicating dental charges and fees to patients, says the Dental Defence Union (DDU).

This follows recent report published by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which found that the number of dental complaints about NHS treatment in England has risen. Statistics show they have increased from 1,193 in 2017/18 to 1,982 in 2022/23 – a 66% increase.

Now, the DDU has suggested a number of ways to minimise the risk of receiving a complaint due to dental charges.

This includes:

  • Clearly set out services and charges in practice notices and on your website
  • Provide details of payment arrangements, such as whether patients are expected to pay for their treatment in advance or on completion
  • Provide a written treatment plan that includes costs and if the treatment is being provided privately or under the NHS. Ask the patient to sign this and keep a copy with their records
  • Provide an updated written cost estimate and treatment plan if changes are required as the treatment progresses.

Earliest opportunity

Leo Briggs, deputy head of the DDU, said: ‘In the DDU’s experience, confusion or disagreement over dental fees can lead to a complaint. To avoid problems, we advise communicating charges and your practice’s fee policy clearly to all patients at the earliest opportunity.’

Ombudsman Rob Behrens said: ‘Poor dental care leaves patients frustrated, in pain and out of pocket. They, and dental professionals, deserve a better system that leads to quality care.

‘Many of us will have read recent headlines of people removing their own teeth and seen images of people queuing outside practices for an NHS dentist. This shows in access problems, such as appointment availability and lack of treatment being a common issue in complaints brought to us.’

The latest complaint figures is higher than other areas of NHS care, including GP, hospital and mental health care. Among these areas, the overall average is 60%, the ombudsman confirmed.

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