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Dental Services: Fees and Charges

Volume 486: debated on Thursday 22 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) in what circumstances a dentist may charge a patient for (a) descaling and (b) cleaning and polishing after the first-tier check up; (247537)

(2) if he will initiate an investigation into the practice of dentists charging patients for descaling, cleaning and polishing following the first-tier check up; and if he will make a statement;

(3) how many NHS dental patients (a) were charged for and (b) received free under the NHS descaling, cleaning and polishing following the first-tier treatment in the latest period for which information is available.

The information is not available in the format requested. However, the number of courses of treatment delivered to charge payers and non-charge payers by treatment band in 2007-08 is available in Table 25 of “NHS Dental Statistics for England: 2007-08”. This publication has already been placed in the Library and is also available on the NHS Information Centre website at:

www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/dental0708.

National health service dental contracts require dentists to provide all proper clinically necessary dental care and treatment that the patient is willing to undergo. A band 1 course of treatment (diagnosis, treatment planning and maintenance) includes examination, diagnosis (for example x-rays), advice on how to prevent future problems, and scaling and polishing if clinically needed. Fee paying NHS patients will be charged £16.20 for a band 1 course of treatment. Those exempt from NHS charges receive treatment without charge.

Patients who are assessed as not clinically needing a scale and polish are free to obtain it privately. As with any treatment if there is no clinical need for the patient to receive a scale and polish it is entirely appropriate that it is provided, if at all, outside the NHS.

We take very seriously the need to ensure that all NHS patients receive clinically appropriate treatment. A dentist who identified a clinical need for a scale and polish under NHS treatment and then refused such care would be potentially in breach of contract. The NHS Business Services Authority is enhancing the role of the dental reference service to ensure that primary care trusts (PCTs) have the tools to check that dental care provided is appropriate to patients’ needs. Patients who have concerns about any aspect of their dental care should in the first instance raise this with the practice and then if not satisfied, with the PCT.

The independent review of NHS dentistry chaired by Professor Jimmy Steele will also look at how we can ensure that NHS dentists deliver consistently high quality care and provide the right level of preventative work. Professor Steele is due to publish his findings later in the year.