The Right to Smile campaign, launched today (Tuesday) by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), provides information on finding a dentist, dental charges, entitlements to NHS care – and even how to seek redress when things go wrong.
The campaign follows in the wake of the OFT study earlier this year which found that, while the majority of patients are satisfied, they do not always have the information to allow them to make informed decisions about their choice of dentist and treatments.
A survey carried out as part of the OFT study also found that some patients might be getting the wrong information about their entitlements to NHS treatment and be paying higher prices for private treatment as a result.
The campaign is running in England, Scotland and Wales, with tailored information about how dentistry works in each country being presented in country-specific videos and literature available on the OFT’s website.
Among those backing the campaign is the British Dental Association (BDA) and the Department of Health (DH).
Dr Martin Fallowfield, chair of the BDA’s Principal Executive Committee, said: ‘As the OFT acknowledges, and research by the BDA and other organisations confirms, patients’ satisfaction with dental care in the UK is very high.
‘Effective communication between dentists and patients is vital in improving oral health and the BDA is pleased to lend its support to this campaign which seeks to ensure patients have a full understanding of what to expect when receiving dental care.’
Barry Cockcroft, chief dental officer for England said: ‘Giving patients good information is key to a high quality service. We are delighted to support the Office of Fair Trading’s campaign. An extra one million new patients have visited an NHS dentist since 2010 and we are committed to improving access to dentistry further. This material will help patients make informed choices about their dental care.'
Health minister Lord Howe added: ‘It is great to hear that the majority of patients are happy with their dental care but we know more can be done so that everyone can enjoy better oral health. It is right that patients know exactly what they can expect when they visit the dentist.'
Commenting on the new campaign, Justin Ash, chief executive at dental corporate Oasis Dental Care, said: ‘As part of the Right to Smile' campaign's consultation group, we wholeheartedly support the initiative. Patient choice and transparent pricing are fundamental to dental care provision in the UK.
‘It is difficult for patients to choose between dental practices without clear information and we publish patients’ views and feedback in every single Oasis practice and online. Oasis is the only provider with a national pricing policy for private dental care and we support the drive for clarity around NHS treatment and the options available to patients.’
Advice in the campaign includes telling patients that if their NHS dentist says they need a particular type of treatment, they shouldn’t be required to pay for it privately; that they only need pay one charge for each complete course of NHS treatment, unless they’ve had to make an emergency visit to the dentist first; and that should NHS treatment fail within 12 months, the dentist should repair or redo most treatment free of charge, unless advised the treatment was unlikely to be a long-term solution.
It also addressses any rights a patient may have under guarantee and informs them they should always recieve a written treatment plan which includes the cost of any treatment involved.
As part of the campaign, the OFT has released a new film, available on its website and YouTube channel, and has produced an information leaflet.