NHS patients asked to pay private fees to avoid dental treatment delay

NHS patients asked to pay private fees to avoid dental treatment delay

NHS patients are asked to pay private fees to avoid delays in dental treatment of up to two years, watchdog warns

  • NHS dental patients are being asked to pay private fees while others face two-year waits for appointments, a watchdog has warned
  • An individual was offered a procedure for £1,700 which was £60 on the NHS 
  • Healthwatch England revealed complaints of dentists prioritising private care 

NHS dental patients are being asked to pay private fees while others face two-year waits for appointments, a watchdog has warned.

In one instance an individual was offered a procedure for £1,700 which was £60 on the NHS, Healthwatch England said.

A document by the watchdog showed complaints of dentists prioritising private care and asking people to pay fees if they wanted treatment quickly. 

Shawn Charlwood, of the British Dental Association, said: ‘Patients with urgent problems need to be at the front of queue for care.’

The Department of Health said it is working with the NHS to increase access.

NHS dental patients are being asked to pay private fees while others face two-year waits for appointments, a watchdog has warned (file photo)

Patient safety champion and chairman of Healthwatch England, Sir Robert Francis QC, said that the issues show how the coronavirus pandemic has ‘exacerbated the human impact of years of structural issues in NHS dentistry and is now pushing it to crisis point.’

Healthwatch England was contacted by hundreds of people between October and December last year complaining about dentistry issues in the health service.

The most common reason for people to approach the watchdog was to complain about a lack of appointments.

The Healthwatch England document states: ‘A lack of NHS dentist appointments remains the most common issue that people have told us about. People have been asked to wait for up to two years to see an NHS dentist.

‘Few have said that they could access dental care quickly if they were willing to pay for private care.’

It adds: ‘People have indicated that dentists have prioritised private care or asked them to pay private fees if they wanted any treatment.

A document by the Healthwatch England showed complaints of dentists prioritising private care and asking people to pay fees if they wanted treatment quickly (file photo)

‘While one individual was charged £500 for extraction of a single tooth, another person was offered a procedure for £1,700 which was £60 on the NHS.’

It features an account by one patient from Kent who reported to Healthwatch in October last year that their dentist had told them that NHS care would be ‘60% successful’, but if they were willing to pay for private care, the odds of success would increase to 90%.

‘Throughout the appointment, the dentist kept making reference to private treatment,’ the patient told Healthwatch England.

‘He advised that I required root canal treatment, which on the NHS would only be 60% successful, but if I were to choose to pay an extra £450 for private treatment, it would be 90% successful.

‘This made me think that the NHS care that I would receive would be sub-standard.

‘(The) dentist kept pushing to choose these options and made me feel inadequate, sub-standard and thoroughly demoralised.’

The watchdog also raised concerns for pregnant women – highlighting how one woman with a suspected abscess waited for months for care and was eventually told that the only place she could receive care was a 45-minute drive away.

The report also highlights how for some patients, if they were not considered as an ’emergency’, they were not eligible for NHS treatment.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to supporting the dental sector throughout this unprecedented pandemic so everyone can access affordable, high-quality dental care.

‘Since last summer, all practices have been able to open to deliver the full range of face-to-face care with 600 extra urgent dental centres providing extra support.

‘We continue to work closely with the NHS to increase access as fast as possible, while protecting staff and patients from Covid-19 infection.’

An NHS spokeswoman said: ‘It’s right that the NHS has set targets that help patients see their dentist, with many practices already going well beyond the target set. Despite the pandemic, millions of people received dental treatment last year and the NHS has set up over 650 urgent dental hubs so patients can get access to a dentist if they need it.’

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