NHS fining vulnerable dental patients

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BDA condemns scattergun approach to NHS charge fines

The British Dental Association (BDA) has condemned the Business Services Authority’s (NHS BSA’s) indiscriminate approach to fining patients for supposedly misclaiming charge exemptions, as new data shows that nearly as many appeals are being won as fines paid.

Freedom of information requests have shown that between 2014/15 and 2016/17 the NHS BSA issued 724,635 Penalty Charge Notices for dental treatment, of which 210,972 were paid, but 174,679 had an exemption confirmed.

Dentist leaders have expressed grave concern that this untargeted approach to fines is hitting innocent patients, who are often vulnerable patients or on low incomes.

Charlotte Waite (top) Chair of the BDA’s England Community Dental Services Committee, said: “Yes, we need robust measures to ensure NHS funds are properly spent. Sadly, tough talk on rooting out fraud has gone hand in hand with a totally indiscriminate approach to fines.

“It’s ludicrous that nearly as many appeals are won as penalties are actually paid. These fines are now hitting hundreds of thousands of patients – many who are vulnerable or on low incomes – who have simply done nothing wrong.

“Government really needs to be encouraging attendance at NHS dentists, not designing policies to put the frighteners into patients who are fully entitled to claim.

“We need to end the fine roulette, with straightforward forms, and proper signposting. Those eligible for free dentistry shouldn’t face £100 penalties by default just for ticking the wrong box.”