NHS patients’ charges to rise by 5% despite pandemic

NHS patients’ charges to rise by 5% despite pandemic

Junior health minister, Jo Churchill MP, has announced that NHS dental patient charges will rise by 5% from December 14, 2020. The charge payable for a band 1 or urgent course of treatment will rise by £1.10, from £22.70 to £23.80. For band 2 it will rise by £3.10 from £62.10 to £65.20. For band 3 course it will increase by £13.50 from £269.30 to £282.80.

The Minister said: “This is the fifth and final year of the Spending Review 2015 commitment to annually uplift dental patient charges by 5% for the duration of the Spending Review period.” A similar announcement was made in the House of Lords by Lord Bethell.

The BDA has reacted angrily, accusing government of erecting further barriers to care during the COVID pandemic, when services remain so limited and focused on dealing with an unprecedented backlog.

The BDA has accused Ministers of using inflation-busting increases to try and plug the hole in the service’s shrinking budget. Since lockdown the Treasury has lost nearly £400 million from the charges that are increasingly relied upon to fund services in England, with around £50m in revenues now being lost per month. The BDA has already called on government to provide capital funding for ventilation equipment that could enable practices to massively expand access, by reducing the gaps dentists are mandated to keep between treatments, which remain the number one barrier to capacity. The BDA estimate any investment would pay for itself by helping restore patient numbers closer to pre-COVID levels.

Dave Cottam, Chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee said: “Slapping higher charges on patients struggling to secure care in the middle of 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.”

Link to Minister’s statement: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2020-11-23/hcws593

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