The British Dental Association (BDA) has criticised a government scheme relating to NHS dental charges, as NHS dental treatment continues to become pricier.
Under the terms of government plans, NHS dental treatment would increase by 5% in cost, with the BDA suggesting that this will dissuade poorer patients from accessing important treatment.
Prices will rise from 1st April and again next year if the government plans are implemented.
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, the chairman of the BDA’s general dental practice committee, observed that there are no plans to increase any other form of treatment, for example prescriptions, and was extremely critical of the decision to effectively discriminate against NHS dental patients.
“This unprecedented hike in dental charges will only serve to discourage the patients that are most in need of care. This money doesn’t go to NHS dentists – they are being asked to play the role of tax collector – while our patients are singled out to subsidise the health service.”
The new scheme will see the course of a single treatment rise to £20.60 by 2018.
A band two course of treatment – which covers all treatment in band one plus procedures such as fillings, root canal treatment and tooth removal – will increase to £56.30 by 2018.
While band three – which covers all treatment covered by bands one and two, plus more complex procedures such as crowns, dentures and bridges – will increase to £244.30 over the same time period.
The aforementioned Overgaard-Nielsen is of the belief that price hikes will damage the relationship between NHS dentist and patients.
“We can’t tell them how this extra money will be spent, and whether a penny of it will actually end up improving dental care or access to dental services. These charges were first introduced in 1951 to limit demand for NHS dentistry, and that’s precisely what they do best. Government has given patients another reason to avoid visiting their dentist.”
In the wake of criticism from the British Dental Association, the Conservative government predictably defended the charges, and suggested that they were necessary in the existing climate.
Alistair Burt, the community and social care minister, suggested that dental charges remained “an important contribution to the overall cost of dental services”.
Burt Went on to outline what he perceived to be the advantages of the scheme, and the options available to be less fortunate in society.
“NHS dental treatment will remain free for those under the age of 18, those under the age of 19 and receiving full-time education, pregnant women or those who have had a baby in the previous 12 months, and those on qualifying low-income benefits. If someone does not qualify for these exemptions, full or partial help may be available through the NHS Low Income Scheme.”
Reports in the media have already focused on individuals engaging in advanced dental work of their own volition, with some people even driven to extracting their own teeth due to an inability to afford basic dental treatment.
Evidence indicates that 2,000 NHS patients in Scottish locations are being dumped by dentists in order to ensure that priority cases can be dealt with.
This could be considered a controversial decision, and what has particularly generated headlines in the tabloid press in particular is the fact that some of the vulnerable clients prioritised are drug addicts.
Disabled patients are also among the clients who will be prioritised by practitioners.
Critics of the scheme have suggested that dentists are effectively creating a two-tier system.
It is understood there has already been flood of complaints from patients at Abban Street and Inverness Dental Centre clinics who have become victims of the Scottish Government policy.
A letter from the NHS in Scotland explains the policy of the service to customers affected.
“Although there is overall increased availability of NHS dental services, inequalities in oral health persist, with some of the most vulnerable experiencing the poorest oral health. The public dental service (PDS) has a key role in ensuring that services are delivered to those patients who cannot access care through a general dental practitioner (GDP).”
It is already known that waiting times for NHS appointments for people outside of the prioritised group will increase over the next 18 months.
And the letter goes on to emphasise that it will be necessary for patients to transfer who do not currently have additional needs.
Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon considers the decision by the NHS in Scotland to be nothing short of scandalous.
“This is shocking. The fact that people are receiving a letter saying we now have a two-tier system, and that they have to seek appointments elsewhere, is of very serious concern. It’s a retrograde step that takes us back 20 years when so many people were forced to take out private dental plans.”
However, Alexandra Fraser, NHS Highland’s dental service development manager, defended the plans.
“We appreciate that for some patients that have been with a clinic for many years a change will be difficult. This change is essential if we’re to have the capacity to provide services for patients with additional needs. It’s the direction which the Scottish Government requires all health boards to take. Our funding for this service is being reduced accordingly.”
Dental services have been problematical in the NHS since the status of the practice changed under the government of Tony Blair.
This has led to many individuals being forced to seek private practices.
While there may be capacity for 2,700 additional clients within Scottish NHS dentists, there is no doubt that some of those being struck off the lists of existing surgeries will experience significant inconvenience.
An NHS dentist who defrauded the NHS for in excess of £200,000 has been jailed for three years.
Mark Walewski, 68, from Tilford Road, Churt, Surrey is the latest NHS worker to be prosecuted for financial crimes in recent months, after he stole money in order to acquire a fleet of classic cars.
It has been widely reported that Walewski had an income in excess of £150,000 per annum.
Guildford Crown Court heard that the dentist has stolen money over a six-year period.
Judge Stephen Climie sentenced him to three years in prison for two counts of evasion of a liability by deception and two counts of fraud by abuse of position.
Commenting on the sentence, Climie indicated that he considered the conduct of Walewski to have been completely unapologetic, and that this was influenced in the sentencing.
“This is a case which, in my judgment, involved a gross abuse of the position of trust which you enjoyed. It is of course no small task to achieve the qualification of becoming a dentist and you did so with the many factors that opposed you. Nonetheless the position that you obtained in these circumstances is a privilege and one which carries significant rewards. Despite that, for a significant period of time you abused the system that was open to you and as a result the NHS suffered this significant loss.”
The dentist made double-claims for treatments, as well as making numerous claims for treatment that had never been carried out.
These included check-ups on babies and fillings on young children, leaving their dental records incorrect.
Between April 2006 and August 2012, he claimed for 6608 “units of dental activity” – the measure used to work out how much dentists are paid – which totalled just over £432,000 and resulted in a loss to the NHS of £222,703.34.
Considering the raft of fraud which has been uncovered in the NHS over the last few months, question marks have been raised regarding the durability of processes in the NHS in order to identify such activity.
This particular case has also reopened wounds and debates regarding the role of migrant labour in the NHS. Walewski had originally hailed from Poland.
But it was also acknowledged that the dentist had battled against the odds to reach his career status, with his son having cerebral palsy.
Considering this issue, individuals participating in the court proceedings expressed their surprise that Walewski had taken advantage of children in his fraud.