Free check ups – could it really make a difference?

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  Posted by: The Probe      16th January 2020

Many various promises were flying around ahead of the election which stand out to us dentists, one of which was free dental MOTs if labour had made it into number 10. While this didn’t come to pass, I thought I’d share how I feel on the notion.

Firstly, since I’ve begun working under this existing NHS contract it is crystal clear there is not enough funding for NHS dentistry as it is. How on earth is it fair that to practice good quality dentistry, money ends up coming out of the dentist’s own pocket half the time? Of course, as a foundation dentist this is not the case for me, however, I can see first-hand how it must be happening all the time. I work in a very high needs area and many of my patients walk in with wall to wall caries needing 5+ restorations, RCTs and periodontal treatment all for a measly 3 UDAs. I would be earning virtually nothing on these patients. So how on earth can we begin to think about funding for free check ups, when there are massive flaws in the contract we work under? This money needs to be spent elsewhere.

Check ups are already free for those who are in financial hardship – they are exempt from charges. So a policy like this, were it to emerge in the future, is not going to benefit those who need it as they are already benefiting from not only free check ups, but free treatment also.

Labour’s argument was that free check ups will encourage more people to go for their dental check ups. However, I really don’t believe that the £22.70 charge every six months or so is a barrier to those receiving dental care. This is just a very small issue within a huge number of other barriers. What about investing this money into education and making people aware of the importance of seeing their dentist regularly, or provision of services in areas where dentists are most needed? I think it’s fair to assume that most patients who are irregular attenders would say that they are too scared to visit and this policy would not combat this barrier. I truly believe that this would make absolutely no difference, damage the dental profession even further and to be frank, be a complete waste of tax payers’ money.

To me, the promise by Labour for free check ups was a classic example of someone outside of the profession trying to make an input but with absolutely no idea what working as a dentist is like. It’s nice to have been finally acknowledged in the news and by politicians, however, it could have been in better circumstances.

For NHS dentistry to be sustainable in the long-term, things need to be changed drastically, not least, problems we are all facing every day working within this awful contract.


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