‘Political parties seem to have discovered of the world's biggest money tree!’ says AMII's Stuart Scullion
The Labour party has promised to scrap band one dentistry charges and to provide everyone with a free MOT with their dentists as part of its election manifesto.
According to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the policy, which will cost £450m per year, is intended to encourage more people to go to the dentist, help detect oral cancer and bring dental services to people for free at the point of use.
Ahead of its annual conference today, Stuart Scullion, chair of the Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries (AMII), told COVER: "Anything which encourages people to visit their dentist for a check-up is welcome, especially to those who are less well-off and are unable to pay the band one fee of £22.70. Early detection of any form of cancer potentially leads to an improved chance of recovery and oral cancer is no different. However, part of the problem is caused because there are a lack of NHS dentists generally and in some geographical locations specifically.
I suppose the question is how this work would and is it the answer to the problem?
"You can tell it's general election season," he continued, "because politicians and political parties seem to have found the answer to so many problems following the discovery of the world's biggest money tree! Some of the things being promised have not been accurately costed, are financially unsustainable, or both."
Claire Ginnelly, managing director of Premier Choice, added: "Any move to make dental care more accessible has got to be a good thing as long as it can be paid for. However, I suppose the question is how this work would and is it the answer to the problem? Of course, there will be people who do not visit the dentist due to cost - although there is already an element of means testing and some people do get free access."
Ginnelly also pointed out there is also an issue with people not wanting to visit the dentist, even if they can afford it, and not being able to access an NHS dentist. "Even if dental care was made free for all, would we see an increase in availability of NHS dentists? One could argue there would be no need for private practices in this environment but I understand dentists choose to move to private work as they feel the money they receive from NHS is not enough for them to run their practice. Perhaps this also needs to be considered."
The Independent reported that it is estimated that around 380,000 patients visiting their GPs with toothache cost the NHS more than £20m a year, and an additional £18m is spent on around 135,000 patients attending A&E units with dental problems.
Labour argue that free dental check-ups would play a key role in the prevention of serious oral health problems.
IHC senior consultant Paul Roberts argued that he thought free dental check-ups were free if you can't afford to pay, while viewing the intention to tax the top 5% more to pay for NHS enhancements "then handing them the same 5% a silly benefit" as flying in the face of promising "free" dental care.
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