One in four delay or go without NHS dental treatment ‘due to cost’

One in four people are delaying or going without NHS dental treatment because of its rising cost, the British Dental Association (BDA) has warned.

On the day NHS charges in England rise by 8.5%, the professional body said it was concerned that patients are not seeking the help they need because they cannot afford it.

A new poll by YouGov for the BDA of 1,723 adults in England found 23% report delaying or going without NHS dental treatment for reasons of cost.

The price hike now in force will mean the cost of a band 1 treatment such as a check-up will increase from £23.80 to £25.80, while a band 2, such as a filling, will increase from £65.20 to £70.70.

In the poll, people were told that NHS dentistry is currently funded by a mix of direct government contributions from general taxation and patient charges.

They were asked: “Thinking about how NHS dentistry should be funded going forward, which of the following, if any, comes closest to your view?”

Some 38% of people said dentistry should be fully funded by the Government through general taxation, effectively free at the point of delivery.

Meanwhile, 29% said funding from the Government should increase, while maintaining some patient charges.

Furthermore, 82% of people surveyed said exemptions should cover cancer patients, whose treatment can cause dental problems.

When asked “have you ever delayed or gone without an NHS dental treatment that you needed?”, 26% of people said they had gone without and 19% said they had delayed.

When asked why, 53% said treatment cost too much while 34% said they could not get an appointment and 13% thought treatment would be too painful.

On the main factors that influence what type of treatment people choose, 45% said the price, while a lower proportion, 36%, said the clinical recommendations of their dentist.

A fifth cited quality of appearance after treatment as a factor, while 18% said appointment availability.

It said that while some adult patients are exempt from charges, many on modest incomes still have to pay, including recipients of low-income benefits such as Universal Credit.

The BDA argues that price rises are simply becoming a substitute for Government investment.

It told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee inquiry last month that saving NHS dentistry requires a sustainable funding settlement.

BDA chairman, Eddie Crouch, said: “This hike won’t put a penny into NHS dentistry, it will just force millions to think twice about needed care.

“Sadly, widening health inequality is a price this Government seems willing to pay to cover for cuts.

“This is not a partisan issue. The public recognise this is not the way to fund a core part of our health service.”

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