Above-inflation increases in NHS charges
The British Dental Association Wales has strongly criticised above-inflation increases in NHS dental charges from the Welsh Government.
Charges in Wales will increase from April 1, from £13.50 to £14 for band 1 treatments, including basic check-ups (a 3.9 per cent increase); from £43 to £44 for band 2 treatments like fillings (a 2.3 per cent increase); and from £185 to £195 for band 3 treatments like crowns, dentures and bridges (a whopping 5.4 per cent increase).
Data from the last Adult Dental Health Survey revealed nearly 400,000 people in Wales have delayed or avoided dental treatment because of costs. Recent research in England has suggested fees place significant pressure on GP and accident and emergency services, as patients seek out services that are not subject to charges.
In the official memorandum heralding the increase, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, Vaughan Gethin, said he was, "satisfied that the benefits outweigh any costs". The BDA has consistently called on parties to maintain the freeze on charge levels and asked for NHS dental treatment to be made genuinely affordable. No official consultation was run.
NHS charges were introduced in the 1950s to lower demand for dental services, but in England are increasingly a substitute for direct funding – they’re on course to become the principal source of revenue for the service. Following several years in which charge levels have remained frozen, BDA Wales has urged the Welsh Government not to embrace the English model.
Katrina Clarke, chair of the BDA’s Welsh General Dental Practice Committee, said,"The Welsh Government has absolutely no justification for giving people on low incomes reasons to avoid seeing their NHS dentist. Charge hikes do not put a penny more into the system – they simply turn dentists into tax collectors and discourage the patients who most need our care.
"Dentists are not satisfied with policies that encourage people to miss out on effective early treatment. It's a false economy that stores up problems for later and is already heaping needless pressure on our GP and A&E services.
"Wales must show it's not going to follow the lead of England, where ministers use charge hikes to mask cuts in direct funding. Welsh patients should not have to put in more just so the Welsh Government can pay less."