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Treasury plans to cut free care for jobless grotesque

The British Dental Association has slammed proposals in the coming autumn statement to limit access to free dentistry to the unemployed, in a bid to force the long-term sick back into work.

The proposal, expected to be taken forward in the coming Autumn Statement, will also apply to free prescriptions. The professional body has drawn parallels with the heavy-handed fines used to clamp down on those 'misclaiming' free NHS care, that resulted in over £180m in penalties hitting innocent, often vulnerable patients. It has warned that those hardest-hit will inevitably be those with the highest needs.

No new investment for dentistry is expected in the Autumn Statement. NHS England have given Integrated Care Boards license to raid ‘underspends’ in dental budgets to plug funding gaps. The recent reshuffle and resignation of dental minister Neil O’Brien MP also leaves the much-delayed recovery plan for NHS dentistry in limbo. O’Brien has since publicly stated that if ‘fiscal headroom’ exists in the Autumn Statement funds should be directed to NHS dentistry.

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said:

“This is an utterly grotesque display of priorities by the Treasury.

“In the coming Autumn Statement not a penny of investment is expected to go into a struggling service, but cutting off access to free dentistry will be used as a stick to beat the long-term sick back into work.

“Millions are now struggling to access care, and those who most need it and can least afford it will inevitably be the hardest hit.

“NHS dentistry is meant to be a core part of our health service. Not a budget line that’s raided to suit the whims of government accountants.”