Dental charity calls for NHS charges to be scrapped during the COVID-19 crisis
The Oral Health Foundation is calling for the government to scrap NHS dental fees during the COVID-19 crisis.
The charity believes that temporarily suspending charges would help patients to access treatment at a time when many are facing financial hardship. The crisis has contributed to rising rates of unemployment, and even those who have been able to claim a wage as part of the furlough scheme may be struggling due to a reduced income.
In an open letter to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, representatives from the foundation urged ministers to consider temporarily freezing charges to enable more people to see a dentist in the coming weeks and months. Cost was already one of the most common barriers to regular dental visits, and it is likely that patients will be even more reluctant to pay for dental appointments in the aftermath of the lockdown.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, suggested that many people may be struggling to afford to put food on the table at the moment, and this means that paying for dental care will be an unaffordable luxury for most. Putting a temporary suspension of charges into place would help those who are finding it difficult to make ends meet to get the treatment they need. The furlough scheme has helped more than 7.5 million people, but losing out on 20% of wage payments can have a dramatic impact, particularly on low-income families.
A survey undertaken before the crisis revealed that over a third of adults saw cost as a barrier to accessing dental care. NHS dental fees for band 1 treatments, which include check-ups and preventative sealant and fluoride varnish treatments, are currently set at £22.70.