Almost 1,000 people have signed an e-petition calling for mouth cancer sufferers to be exempt from dental charges.
The petition – available online – is calling for a change to the rules over charging patients recovering from mouth cancer for post-operative dental treatments.
Campaigners want to open up a debate on this loophole in NHS treatment costs that means patients treated for mouth cancer – who often end up having aggressive surgery – having to pay for remedial dental work.
Often cancer treatment results in loss of teeth and supporting structures and additional treatments – such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy – can have an impact on the patient’s oral health.
Patients can need extensive dental treatment to restore their smile as well as long term follow up care but under current NHS exemption categories they would be expected to pay for dental treatment.
Dr Chetan Trivedy, who created the petition, said: ‘There is clearly a financial inequality for patients with mouth cancer to pay for the post-operative and reconstructive phase following their cancer treatment. We urge the government to review the current NHS dental charges by including an exemption category for patients who have had treatment for mouth cancer.’
Mouth cancer campaigners are also concerned that the lack of free examinations for mouth cancer from NHS dentists is hindering improvements in mouth cancer survival rates. Many NHS patients have to pay for the privilege of having a mouth cancer check – a condition which kills more than cervical cancer and testicular cancer combined each year.
Ahead of Mouth Cancer Action Month, organisers the British Dental Health Foundation have received a number of messages from current mouth cancer sufferers lending their support to the e-petition.
Mouth cancer sufferer Cindy Worthington, 50 from Guernsey, said: ‘I feel strongly about it as I know how regular visits to the hygienist and dentist helped me get an early diagnosis and therefore escape with no physical impairment or disfigurement as a consequence of mouth cancer.
‘As a woman, it strikes me as bizarre that if I still lived in the UK the NHS would pay for a boob job following breast cancer but not for replacement teeth.’
Ed Curry, another mouth cancer sufferer, told the Foundation: ‘This e-petition is very relevant as I am half way through private dental treatment which is going to cost £870, a sum which is a lot of money to me. My NHS dentist was unable to offer me anything more than a 70 per cent chance of successful treatment, so I was left with no other option.’
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said: ‘It is the Foundation’s belief that the current situation faced by mouth cancer sufferers is highly unfair and completely unacceptable.
‘To compound those issues with financial concerns, particularly in such difficult economic times, is one step too far for many mouth cancer sufferers. While all cancer patients require a great deal of care, those on the road to recovery from mouth cancer clearly suffer the after-effects of surgery, both physically and mentally.
‘We fully urge as many people as possible to sign the e-petition to ensure this issue is debated and changed.’
Professor Simon Rogers from the MaxilloFacial Unit at the University Hospital Aintree lent his backing to the e-petition.
You can sign it here – http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/22063