Dentists “mislead” patients on NHS entitlement
Dentists may be deliberately misleading their patients about their NHS entitlements to prompt them pay for private treatment, according to a report by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
The study found that around 500,000 patients may have been provided with inaccurate information by dentists regarding their entitlement to receive particular dental treatments on the NHS, and as a result they may be paying more to receive private dental treatment.
The report published today said that 39% of patients at NHS dentists in the past two years had not seen any leaflets or posters telling them what their NHS charges should be. According to the report, nearly £6 billion was spent on dental treatment in 2009-10, with 58% being spent on NHS treatment and 42% on private treatment.
Health Minister Lord Howe welcomed the results of the study, saying: “Denying patients care on the basis of misinformation is a very serious matter – any dentist that does this risks breaching their contract and we would expect the local NHS to take action.”
“This study has highlighted that the current NHS dental contract in England may well not be working in the best interests of patients,” said John Fingleton, the Chief Executive of OFT.
“We also unearthed evidence that some patients may be receiving deliberately inaccurate information about their entitlement to NHS dental treatment, and we expect to see robust action taken against such potential misconduct by dentists,” he added.
The UK’s consumer and competition authority suggested that NHS commissioning bodies such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the General Dental Council (GDC) should take more proactive approach in pursuing “formal, robust and timely enforcement against such instances of misconduct where appropriate.”
The OFT emphasised there was an urgent need to reform in NHS dental regulations. It concluded that greater competition in dentistry should be the aim of a reformed NHS contract, and the Department of Health should consider a system where NHS dental payment follows the patient.
However, the British Dental Association expressed disappointment at the way the report has been portrayed, arguing that the OFT took a “headline-grabbing approach” to publicise the report, in which it focused on a very small number of cases where it believed it had identified problems.