NHS dental charges up 80%

Patients in some areas of the UK are now spending 80 per cent more to visit an NHS dentist than 12 months ago, an investigation has revealed.

Merseyside patients are paying more than ever for checkups and treatments, often paying close to the amounts required for private dental treatment, according to the Daily Post.

In addition, seven out of ten practices in Liverpool and Wirral are no longer taking on new NHS patients, with government contracts forcing many to cut patient services or abandon the NHS altogether.

Neil Thomas, acting chairman of Wirral local dental committee, said that dentists were now carrying out less preventative work because the new contracts do not provide enough time for this and penalise dentists who do not meet targets.

In some cases, dentists are being required to treat one patient every ten minutes, in which time they are expected to welcome the patient, carry out a full check-up and a scale and polish.

"But probably the biggest change since it was introduced is the amount patients are paying," Mr Thomas told the Daily Post.

"The amount of money we are collecting is up 80 per cent on last year. Whereas patients used to pay £5 for a check-up, now they are paying £15."

A small filling used to cost around £20, with the government subsidising the rest; but, under the new pricing system, patients pay £42.40.

In addition, a crown now costs just £30 less than a top-of-the-range crown from a private dentist, the Daily Post revealed.

"This is clearly an extremely worrying situation for many dentists and their patients and reflects the uncertainty, unfairness and unhappiness surrounding the government's reforms of NHS dentistry," said Lester Ellman, chairman of the British Dental Association's general dental practice committee.

The target-driven nature of the new contract is frustrating dentists by its failure to allow "a more preventative approach to care", said Mr Ellman.

"And from the evidence so far, the new contract seems to have done little to achieve the government's primary aim of making it easier to find an NHS dentist."

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