Welsh Dental Patients Charges Increased By Up To 36%

Welsh Dental Patients Charges Increased By Up To 36%

Media headlines on April 1st are always laden with spurious news, however, few in Wales were amused by the Welsh Government’s announcement that NHS dental charges have risen by up to 36%.

Notwithstanding the rise - the first for four years - most dental fees remain significantly lower than those in England.  Exemptions are also more generous, with check-ups being free for the under 25s over 60s.  51.2% of all courses of treatment delivered in 2022/23 were exempt from dental patient charges.

Until April 1st, Band One patients in Wales were charged £14.70 (England £25.80), Band Two £47.00 (England £70.70) and Band Three £203.00 (England £306.80).  

Effective April 1st, the Welsh charges increased to £20.00 (+36.1%) £60.00 (+27.7%) and £260.10 (+28.1%) for Bands One, Two and Three respectively.

In a dramatic move, Welsh ’Urgent Treatment’ charges have broken rank with tradition and no longer enjoy parity with the Band One charge. A patient presenting with toothache in Wales will now be hit with a £30 - more than double the previous £14.70 -  charge.

The hikes are believed to be the steepest in the history of the NHS and the Welsh Government has pledged that the extra funds raised will be invested back into dentistry.

Patient groups are understandably dismayed by the announcement and predict a growing chasm between those able to afford to pay and those on the margins of society who will face agonising choices.

Coming on the day when the minimum hourly wage was ratcheted up to £11.44, the additional £1.02 an hour has, for many of 2.7 million who earn it, been immediately swallowed up by higher broadband and mobile phone charges plus rising water and council tax bills.  

Dentist Russell Gidney is the Principal Dentist at Beaufort Park Dental Surgery near Chepstow and is Chair of the Welsh General Dental Practice Committee. He told BBC News "£30 for a toothache appointment is not insignificant".  

Commenting on the affordability of dentistry for those most hit by the cost of living Mr Gidney said "They’re the ones who are going to be having to make real choices if they can afford to access that level of care.

"You see stories of people taking their own teeth out because they can’t access care, and we’ll just see more and more of these stories come through with that rise in fees.”

Despite the rise in fees, many practice owners face an uphill struggle to deliver their NHS contracts. Recruitment problems are deeply entrenched and the remorseless increase in practice running costs continues to impact on viability.

Mr Gidney said “Charges hikes should never provide cover for cuts. Any increases will inevitably force patients on modest incomes to delay dental care or avoid it entirely, and a proper safety net needs to be in place.

“Cardiff Bay must not go down a path that will widen already scandalous oral health inequalities.".

Image of Russell Gidney Credit



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