Poll Confirms NHS Dental Charges Are Repelling Patient Attendance

Poll Confirms NHS Dental Charges Are Repelling Patient Attendance

The recent 8.5% increase in NHS dental charges has attracted bitter criticism from the BDA, not least because none of the money raised will benefit providers or fund improvements to the service.  Put simply, patients are being asked to pay more so that government can pay less.

More disturbing, from a ‘health of the nation’ perspective, is the confirmation of what many clinicians already know, namely that higher charges discourage or prevent patients from making necessary appointments.

YouGov polled 1723 adults and found that almost a quarter – 23% - of adults in England were delaying or foregoing necessary dental treatment for reasons of cost.

One practice manager, who did not wish to be named, told GDPUK “I’ve noticed a marked increase in the number of patients calling the practice ahead of their appointment to enquire about its cost and, on being told, they have asked to move the appointment to the following week so that it’s ‘after they’ve been paid’ or, if it’s for something they feel is dispensable like a hygienist appointment, they’re cancelling altogether and declining the offer to rebook.”

With an NHS check-up now costing £25.80, a couple attending for check ups face a charge of £51.60.  If they adhere to a six monthly recall, they face paying £103.20.  If on each occasion they are reassured that ‘nothing’s wrong’ the reflecting on spiralling energy and supermarket bills patients will question the affordability of continuing to engage with a check-up regime they previously never questioned.

YouGov’s poll asked patients how dentistry should be funded and 38% replied they would like it to be fully funded by taxation and free at the point of use. (It’s worth noting here that the public always tells pollsters that it is willing to pay more tax so that the NHS has more but, in the privacy of the polling booth, that same public rarely votes for a party committed to raising taxes).

53% of respondents who told YouGov that they had delayed or turned down treatment recommended by their dentist cited cost as the main reason.  13% simply couldn’t face the treatment as they feared the experience would be too painful.

The BDA is lobbying government to put a stop on patient charge increases.  Chairman Eddie Crouch said “This hike won’t put a penny into NHS dentistry, it will just force millions to think twice about needed care.”

GDPUK would like to hear from you.  Has your practice noticed an uptick in patients baulking at the cost of NHS charges?  Have you experienced cancellations or patients failing to book recommended treatment plans? How should the profession respond to such behaviours?

Image by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images


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