The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) wants major changes to the
£5.73 billion dentistry market after a market study found that it is not always
working in the best interests of patients.
The OFT study found that patients have insufficient
information to make informed decisions about their choice of dentist and the
dental treatments they receive.
The report raises concerns about continued restrictions
preventing patients from directly accessing dental care professionals, such as
hygienists, without a referral from a dentist. The OFT considers these
restrictions to be unjustified and likely to reduce patient choice and dampen
The OFT also highlights concerns with the current NHS dental
contracts in England. As the majority of these contracts are not time-limited,
and only a small volume of new contracts are put out to tender each year, it is
extremely difficult for new dental practices to be established, and successful
dental practices which offer a higher quality of service to NHS patients are
prevented from expanding.
Other issues of concern highlighted in the report include
instances of potential pressure selling by dentists of dental payment plans.
The OFT has identified a wide-ranging package of
recommendations to address these concerns, which includes:
- Provision of clear, accurate and timely information for
patients about prices and available dental treatments
- Direct patient access to dental care professionals
- Reform of the NHS dental contract in England
- Sale of dental plans - the British Dental Association has
agreed to develop a robust and effective code of practice covering the sale of
dental payment plans
John Fingleton of the OFT says, “Our study has raised
significant concerns about the dentistry market which need to be tackled
quickly in the interest of patients. All too often patients lack access to the
information they need, for example when choosing a dentist or when getting