Higher patient charges for NHS dental care in 2017/18 have been announced, not in a ministerial statement but through an amendment to the regulations. These changes amount to a 5% increase. GDPC chair, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said: “These unprecedented charge hikes are self-defeating, and simply discourage the patients who need us most from seeing an NHS dentist.”
Patient charges for NHS dental care in 2017/18 will be as follows:
These changes will be effective on courses of treatment started on or after April 1, 2018 and will apply to England. In Scotland and Northern Ireland patients pay a percentage of the NHS fee. In Wales examinations are free so the patient charges are less. They will be: Band 1 and urgent treatment frozen £14, Band 2 £45, Band 3 £195
The British Dental Association (BDA) has branded the increases as a ‘cover for cuts to state funding for NHS dentistry’. They point out that patients will be paying in an additional £72.4 million over the course of the financial yearand that nearly 1 in 5 patients have delayed treatment for reasons of cost according to official statistics and that 600,000 patients with toothache, over 11,000 a week, are choosing to head to their GPs, who are not subject to charges but are unequipped to provide dental treatment.
The BDA estimates these appointments cost the NHS over £26 million a year. Some 135,000 patients per year are attending A&E units with dental problems. The BDA’s Chair of General Dental Practice, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said:
“These unprecedented charge hikes are self-defeating, and simply discourage the patients who need us most from seeing an NHS dentist. Cost is a huge barrier to many patients on moderate incomes. The result is patients bottling up problems and requiring more extensive treatment, which hurts their health and costs the NHS millions.
“We are health professionals, not tax collectors. These hikes don’t go to us or towards improving the services our patients receive, they simply provide cover for cuts in state contributions. Prevention works in dentistry, but we can’t deliver that focus when Government keeps choosing quick savings over sustainable investment.”
On February 26, the Department announced that from this April the prescription charge would rise by 20p from £8.60 to £8.80 for each medicine or appliance dispensed. But they have frozen the cost of the prescription prepayment certificates for another year. The 3-month one remains at £29.10 and the cost of the annual one stays at £104. The Department commented that “Taken together, this means prescription charge income is expected to rise broadly in line with inflation.”