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Welsh Government must show it’s not aping Westminster on charge hikes

It’s a record the Welsh Government should take no pride in breaking.

Just a day after Westminster ramped up charges, we’re looking at what appears to be the largest single increase in charge levels in the 75 year history of the NHS.

We’re clear this unprecedented increase in charges for NHS dentistry must protect vulnerable patients and put new funds to work securing better access and a more sustainable service.

From 1 April 2024 a band 1 treatment like a check-up will increase from £14.70 to £20.00, a 36.1% increase. A band 2 like a filling will increase from £47.00 to £60.00, a 27.7% increase. And a band 3 like dentures will increase from £203 to £260.10, a 28.1% increase.

Urgent care charges will more than double from £14.70 to £30.00.  This could leave the Welsh Government only paying £6 toward that NHS care with the patient paying around 85% of the cost of that service.

We even complimented of the ‘restraint’ shown by the Welsh authorities. But the Cardiff Bay administration now risks aping the tactics of the Westminster Government, who for 14 years have used inflation busting hikes to reduce state contributions within a flat budget.

While some adults are exempt, the impact could be profound given the depth of socio-economic and oral health inequalities within Wales, and that reforms to current exemptions from charges should be urgently considered to provide a safety net for low income, high needs, fee paying patients.

Our work in England last year found nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents in England delayed or went without NHS dental treatment for reasons of cost. 45% said the price shaped the choice of treatment they opt for. There are widespread reports across the UK of patients declining restorative dentistry and choosing cheaper extractions.

 “If this money doesn’t end up providing better and more sustainable care then the Welsh Government will be following the Westminster playbook,” says WGDPC Chair Russell Gidney.

“Forcing patients to pay more, so they can pay less.”

“Cardiff Bay must not go down a path that will widen already scandalous oral health inequalities.”