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.