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Eye Tests and Dental Checks

Volume 501: debated on Wednesday 25 November 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the cost of providing every person with a free annual (a) eye test and (b) dental check in 2009. (300357)

We have made no estimate of the cost of providing everyone with a free annual eye test and free annual dental check.

The appropriate frequency for sight tests varies according to an individual's age and clinical requirements. Current guidance indicates that for the majority of people aged between 16 and 70 years, the minimum interval between sight tests could be two years. More frequent tests are appropriate for children or those aged 70 and over, or if an individual is at particular risk of eye disease, is concerned that they may have an eye condition, or an optometrist or ophthalmic medical practitioner judges that more frequent tests are clinically necessary.

The appropriate frequency for dental checks depends upon an individual's oral health status. Guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Dental Recall – recall interval between routine dental examinations, October 2004, available on the NICE website at

http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG19/Guidance/pdf/English

recommends that dentists recall patients at any interval between three months and two years, according to each person's oral health needs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people are entitled to a free annual (a) eye test and (b) dental check; how many people received such tests in 2008-09; and what the cost was. (300358)

It is not possible to identify how many people are currently entitled to free national health service sight tests and dental checks. Those groups who are entitled to NHS sight tests (which are available to all individuals within the eligible groups at no charge) or free dental care are summarised in the following table. Statistics are not available on the number of individuals who fall within all of these categories; nor can we identify how many people might be counted within more than one category.

Groups entitled to NHS sight tests

Groups entitled to free NHS dental care

Aged under 16, or aged 16, 17 or 18 in full-time education

Aged under 18, or aged 18 in full-time education

Aged 60 or over

A woman who is pregnant, or who has had a baby in the 12 months before treatment starts

A diagnosed glaucoma patient, or someone who has been advised by an ophthalmologist that they are at risk of glaucoma, or someone aged 40 or over who is a parent, brother, sister, son or daughter of a diagnosed glaucoma patient

A person who is an NHS in-patient whose treatment is carried out by a hospital dentist

A person diagnosed as diabetic

1A person who is an NHS Hospital Dental Service out-patient

A person who is registered as severely sight-impaired/blind or sight-impaired/partially sighted

When the treatment starts or when the charge is made, a person or their partner who is getting: Income Support Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance Pension Credit Guarantee Credit

A person who needs complex lenses

A person who is entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate

A patient whose sight test is carried out through a hospital eye department as part of the management of an eye condition

A person who is named on a valid NHS Low Income scheme HC2 certificate

A person who is getting, or whose partner is getting: Income Support Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance Pension Credit Guarantee Credit

A person who is entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate

A person who is named on a valid NHS Low Income scheme HC2 certificate

1 There may be a charge for dentures and bridges

In 2008-09 11.3 million NHS sight tests were provided by primary care practitioners within the General Ophthalmic Service in England. This may not fully equate to the number of individuals who received tests, because some people may have had more than one test within the year. Further details including the breakdown of the number of tests according to the category of entitlement recorded for each patient is available in the report “General Ophthalmic Service: Activity Statistics for England and Wales Year Ending 31 March 2009” published by the NHS Information Centre for health and social care. A copy of the report is available at the Information Centre's website at:

www.ic.nhs.uk/statistics-and-data-collections/primary-care/eye-care/general-phthalmic-services:-activity-statistics-for-england-and-wales-year-ending-31-march-2009

In 2008-09, 18.4 million courses of dental treatment were provided by NHS primary dental care services in England to patients who qualified for free treatment. This will not equate to the number of individuals who received care because some people will have received more than one course of treatment within the year. Most courses of treatment will have incorporated a dental examination. Further details, including the breakdown of the number of courses of treatment according to the category of entitlement recorded for each patient, is available in the report “NHS Dental Statistics for England: 2008-09” published by the NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care. A copy of the Information Centre report has already been placed in the Library.

The cost of NHS sight tests provided within the General Ophthalmic Service in 2008-09 is estimated at £223 million.

Since dentists are no longer paid an itemised fee for each element of treatment under the new primary dental service contract arrangements introduced in April 2006, it is not possible to separately identify the cost of dental examinations.