In the current climate, millions, not thousands, of NHS dental patients in England are being forced to go private as ‘dental deserts’ become a scary reality.
Many patients struggle to be accepted as new NHS patients and have travelled very far from their local home area to receive urgent and immediate care.
With the current state of NHS dentistry, thousands of NHS patients are turning to private practices for their general dentistry needs – and with 0% finance being available throughout 24-months, private dentistry just became a lot more attractive.
Is NHS dentistry on the brink of collapse?
FMC’s Dentistry Census has disclosed that almost three-quarters of dentists are looking to abandon NHS dentistry within two years.
And we’re already seeing huge, significant knock-on effects from this. 9.6% of general dentists left the NHS this year, leaving some areas with only 32 dentists per 100,000 people.
Undoubtedly, this is beginning to cause a wave of problems for patients trying to seek general dentistry treatments or require emergency treatment.
“Whilst 52% of dentists with an NHS contract felt the NHS provides a ‘valuable service’ for patients, 87% remain unhappy working within the NHS system. On top of this, 95% argue it remains inadequately funded.” – Source.
Current scope – how NHS patients are feeling
- More than three in five people (61%) had reported a negative experience; in comparison, only one in 20 (5%) had said something positive.
- Between April – June 2021, nearly four in five people (79%) found it difficult to access timely care. On the other hand, only one in 30 (3%) had found it easy.
- The latest NHS Dental Statistics for England – 2020-21 Annual Report states that the NHS has delivered 69% fewer courses of treatment than the previous year (this is likely a result of 9/10 dentists no longer accepting new patients).
Statistics are provided in a report by Healthwatch England – you can view the complete information here.
“About four months ago, I visited my dentist, and she informed me that at the time, the dental hygiene carried out by the dentist had stopped (was an extra charge linked to that service), so I was suggested to book the hygienist separately. No option was presented at that time, either cost of time or if it was through NHS.
Today, the 28th of July, was my appointment with the hygienist. Once I was in the [dental chair], and right before starting, I was told that the dentist had booked me for an hour and the cost would be £110.
I was shocked and embarrassed – if I had been told that was the price four months ago, I wouldn’t have booked. I booked the hygienist, assuming that the charge was about £30-35 pounds, according to the NHS website.
Unwillingly and out of embarrassment and pressure, I ended up having 30 minutes of treatment for £55.
I was asked to sign a document, after all, that was filled by the hygienist previously. As a stay-at-home mum, thinking of paying £110 for dental cleaning is out of consideration.
I don’t think it is honest to wait until the patient is ready to get the treatment to inform the cost. They should be well informed at the [time] of the booking.”
Healthwatch Lambeth, 03/08/2021
Has your NHS dentist charged you?
According to the NHS website, you should only be charged for private dental treatment if you have agreed before having this private work done.
Before commencing any dental treatment, you should be asked to sign a personal dental treatment plan, which confirms the NHS dental treatments you will receive, and the amount you will need to pay.
If you’re not happy with the response from your NHS dentist regarding incorrect charges, you can complain to the NHS about your dental treatment here.
Your NHS dentist has a responsibility to explain:
- Which treatments are available on the NHS
- What treatments are only available privately
- The cost of your NHS treatment and any other private treatment costs
Going private doesn’t cost that much more money (view fees). Plus you have the opportunity to spread the cost of your treatments interest-free.
The main differences between private dentistry and the NHS
The most common assumption about private dentistry is its cost, one of its main differences from the NHS.
However, this is not always the case; as usual, the outcome and service you receive are better, faster and unrestricted. Let’s explore:
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Benefits of seeing a private dentist
To name a few…
- A wider range of dental treatments
- Shorter waiting times
- Immediate appointments
- Flexible, out of hours service