Every year, of the 20,000 dentists in the UK, approximately 300 of them change to private practice because of the 'drill and fill' attitude and the not so good money aspect of the NHS. Nearly 20 years ago around 1 in 10 people had private treatment but now that has risen to four times as much. The problem is lack of funding - in the last 15 years NHS spending has gone up 75 per cent but spending on dentistry has only increased by 9 per cent. The government has recently increased the number of dentists students by 1,000 but their training will take 5 years.
The NHS System - If you can find a dentist who will treat you on the NHS it is likely you will have to pay for any treatment. At present only pregnant women and new mothers and children that are seen for free, everyone else has to pay including old age pensioners. If they are on low incomes there is help but they must satisfy very complex criteria to qualify. On the whole 7 out of 10 people pay around 80 per cent of their dental care themselves, up to a maximum of 378 pounds.
Currently, a dentist will charge for every extraction or filling and has little incentive for any personal input regarding preventive care. Every procedure has a charge from 5 pounds, 64 pence for a check-up; in total there are 400 different charges. However, changes are planned for April - a tiered system whereby treatments will fit into Bands 1, 2 or 3, as follows:-
Band 1 - cost 15 pounds for a basic check-up and any preventative treatment such as scaling or polishing.
Band 2 - cost 41 pounds and covers treatment for simple procedures like extractions or fillings.
Band 3 - cost 183 pounds for more complex procedures like dentures and crowns.
We welcome the changes and are confident that the revised system will be far clearer. But we are concerned that the proposed Band 3 charge will be too high for many vulnerable members of society, especially older people. A spokesman for the dentists' trade union, the British Dental Association (BDA), thinks the proposed changes will not improve the "excessive workload" they have, or make it simpler or more affordable for people.
For those trying to find an NHS dentist there are 2 websites that are helpful. One is the NHS Direct site who will give details of 5 dentists in your area although this does not mean that they will definitely take you on under the NHS system. And also, the BDA website can help you to find a dentist. Of the 6,000 dentists registered with them not all will entertain NHS patients and you may have to travel to find one. For example, a search on a Suffolk postcode produced a Luton dentist as the closest.
The NHS Direct can also help you to find a Dental Access Centre in your area if all local NHS lists are closed. They cannot register you themselves but will offer treatment to people not registered with an NHS dentist.
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Article Added on Sunday, March 29, 2009
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