British Dental Association says fines are deterring patients on low incomes
The British Dental Association (BDA) has reported a huge fall in the number of people on low incomes visiting the dentist in England. This drop is believed to be because people are concerned about being fined when they make a claim to receive treatment free of charge.
People are entitled to claim free dental treatment if they meet certain criteria, such as:
– Under 18, or under 19 and in full-time education
– Pregnant or have recently given birth
– In hospital and receiving treatment from the hospital dentist
– Receiving certain benefits due to low income or a dependent of someone who receives such benefits
The latest annual figures showed that nearly 370,000 fines were handed out to people who were accused of misclaiming for free treatment. However, dentists claim that many of these are due to accidental mistakes made when completing confusing paperwork. The fines, worth nearly £4 million, are generated by a random screening process that checks whether people claiming for free dental treatment are actually eligible for that free treatment.
Patients have reported that it is not clear which boxes should be ticked to indicate the correct benefit they receive, and ticking the wrong box results in a claim being marked as fraudulent. There have also been reports of instances where patients have paid for treatment and then received a fine because it was mistakenly reported that they had claimed for free treatment.
BDA members say they are committed to supporting patients in filling out their paperwork correctly but it is not always clear to them what the correct answers should be. There are BDA dentists throughout the country, and patients looking for a Leicester dentist have a number of options such as http://www.sjrdental.co.uk/general-dentistry/.
The BDA claims that the fines, which are typically £100, create an environment that is hostile to those on low incomes or who are vulnerable. In the four years between 2013-14 and 2017-18, there was a 23% drop in the number of low-income people seeking treatment; this equates to two million fewer treatments. In the same period, the number of fines issued increased from less than 34,000 up to nearly 370,000. According to the BDA, about 90% of fines are overturned on appeal, but the Department of Health claims the actual figure is 2%.