- Doctor warn that visits are leading to increased waiting times
- Trend comes as patients have to pay more towards NHS dental checks
- GPs’ chief says doctors should not be made to carry out dental work
- Comes as a quarter of pharmacies are saved from closure
Katie Strick For The Daily Mail
Toothache is costing GPs more than £26million a year as patients avoid the increasing cost of seeing NHS dentists, it was claimed last night.
An estimated 600,000 GP appointments are made each year by patients seeking dental care, according to a study of 280,000 GP consultations for tooth problems.
Doctors have warned that such visits have led to increased waiting times for those who need genuine medical treatment, saying that they are in ‘no position’ to treat the majority of dental problems.
Those seeking NHS dentistry must now pay between £19.70 and £233.70 – but a decade ago it was £15.50 to £189.
Fees will increase by another 5 per cent next year.
Patients must cover 26 per cent of NHS dentistry costs – up from 19 per cent a decade ago.
Current trends suggest it will take just 15 years before patients pay for most of their treatment.
According to dentists, the rise in costs are due to £170million cuts to NHS dentistry since 2010.
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, from the British Dental Association, studied the figures for GP consultations and warned that dentists were being used as unofficial ‘tax collectors’.
He told The Times: ‘Ministers insist the NHS will remain free at the point of use, but keep ramping up England’s dental charges. Increasingly they look like a tax on health. These inflated charges are pushing those who can’t pay towards overstretched GPs.’
Royal College of GPs chairman Maureen Baker said doctors should not be put in a position where they have to deal with dental problems
Maureen Baker, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘GPs are in no position – and shouldn’t be put in a position – to treat patients with dental problems.’
Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, warned of the health hazards for those who delay seeking dental treatment for financial reasons. He said: ‘We have had cases of some people resorting to sacrificing money which they need to pay for food and bills, in order to pay for dental treatment. This simply must not be allowed to continue.
‘The longer we leave between dental visits, the likelihood of developing tooth decay increases. This is also a major barrier for the early diagnosis of mouth cancer.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Raising dental charges is always a difficult decision, but this money is reinvested into the NHS budget.
‘The number of people accessing dental treatment is increasing, with 93 per cent who tried to get an NHS dentist appointment in the last two years being successful.’
Meanwhile, up to a quarter of England’s pharmacies have had a reprieve from closure caused by the cutting of their annual funding by £170million – or 6 per cent – due to begin next month.
As many as 3,000 out of 11,674 chemists were expecting to shut as a result of the savings.
Officials admitted they did not know which would close, prompting fears that some people might be left with no local pharmacy.
But ministers have promised to reconsider the cuts after a campaign to save high street chemists gained two million signatures.
Although the closures have not been cancelled, ministers will consider how to link pharmacists with GP practices.
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