NHS Dentistry Charges Rise Again

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BDA launches poster campaign against NHS dentistry price hikes

As NHS dental charges in England rise again today (Monday April 1) by an inflation busting 5% the British Dental Association has called for honesty from ministers on how the system has been used to slash state spending. Dentists are responding to the rise by launching a poster campaign running in NHS practices across England to inform patients, as 29 Labour MPs led by Bolton’s Yasmin Qureshi accused Health Secretary Matt Hancock of a “betrayal of patients” over the funding shortfall. [Below]

The increase will see the cost of a routine check-up increase by £1.10 to £22.70, and for a set of dentures increase by £12.80 to £269.30. Charges were introduced in the 1950s to discourage patients from seeking care, but in recent years have become a proxy for state investment, increasing their share of total spend from just over 20% to nearly 30% of NHS dentistry’s budget since 2010.

Government contributions in England have fallen by over £500 million in real terms in the same period, with charge hikes plugging the gap. BDA analysis of official accounts in all four nations shows that this approach has seen England tumble from front runner to last place on state investment. In 2006 Ministers in England set aside over £35 per capita for dental care, more than any other UK nation. England now stands at £36 per capita, with Scotland investing nearly 50% more in care (£52.73 per head) and Northern Ireland two thirds more (£57.47 per head). Factoring in inflation, spending in England has fallen by £12 per head in real terms since 2010.

The BDA now estimates England is just a decade from the point where charge revenue overtakes state contributions as the principal source of funding for the service. Official surveys have shown one in five patients have delayed treatment for reasons of cost. The BDA posters are a pastiche of official materials which sport happy families – that are sent to practices every spring to mark increases in treatment costs.

Underfunding is feeding a recruitment and retention crisis that left a million new patients unable to secure an appointment last year. The BDA’s Chair of General Dental Practice Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen said: “Our patients deserve to know these charge hikes won’t put a penny into frontline services. They will pay more just so ministers can pay less.

“Charges are designed to discourage attendance, but now serve as cover for savage cuts. England has thrown away leadership on oral health, and the result is a service on the brink and a million patients unable to find an appointment.

“Unless ministers change course within a decade our patients will be putting more in at the point of delivery than government. The service will be NHS in name only. Every year NHS England provides dentists with posters sporting images of happy families, seemingly delighted to see cuts in government spending. Dentists are offering patients the unvarnished version.”

To download the poster go to https://www.bda.org/news-centre/press-releases/Documents/bda-nhs-charges-poster.pdf 

Letter sent today to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock, supplied by Yasmin Qureshi MP.

Dear Matt,

Thank you for your letter dated 13th March.

We were disappointed – if not surprised – to see that you have chosen not to respond to the crucial points we made on the savage cuts to central government funding for NHS dentistry in recent years.
Figures released this weekend by the British Dental Association clearly show the extent to which dental patients in England have been let down by this government.

Since 2006, England has gone from the country investing the most into dental care per head of population in the UK, to a distant last. To allow for inflation and the growing needs of our ageing population, government funding for NHS dentistry in Scotland has increased by 50% more than in England since then, and by almost two thirds more in Northern Ireland.

Since 2010 alone, spending on dental services per capita has gone down by 29% in real terms in this country. Dentists in England are being asked the impossible, and it is ultimately the patients who end up paying the price for the government’s neglect. This is having a real and quantifiable effect, with an official survey suggesting that almost one-fifth of patients have delayed dental treatment due to cost.

Today sees yet another inflation-busting increase in the charges for NHS dental treatment. To continue to ask people to pay more to make up the shortfall created by the government’s vicious cuts is nothing short of a betrayal of patients in England. In your letter you claim to be ‘steadfastly committed to securing NHS dentistry in the long term and ensuring that it is available to all those who need it’.

With patients facing trips of up to 90 miles to get the help they need and dental budgets cut to the bone, sadly facts tell a different story. For too long NHS dentistry in England has been neglected, overstretched and underfunded. Our constituents deserve better.


Yasmin Qureshi MP
Naz Shah MP
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP
Ruth George MP
Faisal Rashid MP
Mohammad Yasin MP
Bill Esterson MP
James Frith MP
Lyn Brown MP
Clive Efford MP
Rosie Duffield MP
Preet Gill MP
Rosena Allin-Khan MP
Afzal Khan MP
Catherine West MP
Liz McInnes MP
Matt Western MP
Holly Walker-Lynch MP
David Lammy MP
Tracy Brabin MP
Laura Smith MP
Mike Hill MP
Nic Dakin MP
Rosie Cooper MP
Gareth Thomas MP
Lucy Powell MP
Tony Lloyd MP
Ruth Cadbury MP
Debbie Abrahams MP