In an open letter the professional body has warned millions are avoiding or delaying needed care, numbers which will only grow during the cost-of-living crisis.
The BDA has urged the Department to abandon its long-term strategy of using charge revenue as a substitute for state investment, an approach no other UK nation has followed. The letter states: “Crowns or dentures now cost £306.80 in England compared to £203.00 in Wales. You have a duty to explain to the public why patients in England must pay over £100 more for exactly the same NHS care.”
Today’s 8.5% increase is the largest on record, and greater than those recently set for both prescriptions (3.2%) and eye tests (4.5%). The letter notes “at any time, such vast patient charge increases would be unacceptable. During a cost-of-living crisis we consider them utterly outrageous. They are well beyond the increases set for optics or pharmacy, and we must ask why our patients are being singled out.”
Last month The Times reported Whitehall sources suggesting that a further 4% increase is set for 2024. The BDA say this plan must be abandoned. Dentist leaders say they can see no evidence of any meaningful equality impact assessment being undertaken, given the material impact this policy is set to have on millions on modest incomes. It has stressed pledges to develop a new framework must be brought forward with urgency, and that a sustainable funding settlement must be in place to underpin the rebuild of a service whose future is no longer guaranteed.
The access crisis in NHS dentistry is currently the focus of a Health and Social Care Committee inquiry, which is set to hear tomorrow from Sara Hurley, Chief Dental Officer for England and Neil O’Brien MP, Minister for Primary Care and Public Health. The BDA has referred the record increase in charges to the chairs of both the Health and Public Accounts Committees.