Secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock, has come under fire for apparently endorsing the private treatment scheme being promoted at the mydenstist practice in Mildenhall, Suffolk, which is now no longer accepting new NHS patients. He said: “Dentistry has always been a mixed market with some people paying and others on the NHS. That system has served Britain well for a long time and any ideas for how to strengthen that offer are very welcome.” Under this scheme, a checkup costs £30 versus £21.60 on the NHS, and examination and a small filling costs £79 versus £59.10 on the NHS. A filling, root canal treatment and a crown can cost up to £639 versus an upper limit on the NHS of £256.50.
Market analysts LaingBuisson have written a new report that implies the dental sector as a whole is in a strong position with annual growth forecasted to be 2%-2.5% over the next three years, but this is mainly a result of growing private care, especially things like teeth whitening and straightening. The report also states that the overall UK dental market is worth £7.1bn a year, and for the 2017-18 period reported on, the NHS market share was under £3.5bn, a £1bn of which is NHS charges. Philip Blackburn, who wrote the report, said: “NHS dentistry is falling behind and policy-makers face a clear challenge to ensure demand for NHS dentistry is being met across the UK.”
“Private dental care versus NHS availability“
A survey by the British Dental Association last year identified the number of free NHS treatments given to exempt patients fell from 8.8 million to 6.8 million in the last four years. According to the BDA, less than 1 in 10 practices in Mr Hancock’s West Suffolk constituency accept adult NHS registrations, and a mere 1 in 5 register children. BDA chair of general practice, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said: “Patients value a choice between private and NHS dentistry, but Matt Hancock seems content that many of his own constituents have been left with no options.”