Government told to rein in its ‘increasingly aggressive’ approach to dental fines
The Sunday Times reported on Aimee Morrow’s story to show how vulnerable patients are suffering from confusion over NHS charges.
The disabled teenager was wrongly accused of misclaiming and threatened with a £100 fine and debt collectors over a free dental checkup.
‘The whole thing was an absolute farce,’ John Morrow, Aimee’s father, said to the Sunday Times.
‘I told them I was not going to pay it and they could take us to court.
‘I am just appalled by the levels of incompetence.’
‘Hopelessly out of control’
In the last five years, the number of fines for misclaiming dental care has jumped from 33,887 to 427,238 in 2017/18.
Revenues for fines covering exemptions from prescriptions and dental charges reached £37.6 million in 2018.
The BDA believes these fines are putting patients exempt from NHS charges off visiting the dentist.
‘Ministers are doubling down on an approach that’s hit hundreds of thousands of vulnerable patients, and encouraged millions more to miss out on care,’ Charlotte Waite, chair of the British Dental Association’s England Community Dental Services Committee, said.
‘Aimee Morrow’s case is emblematic of a policy that’s now running hopelessly out of control.
‘Exemptions are meant to offer a helping hand to those who need NHS dentistry the most.
‘But for too many patients the reality is a £100 fine for ticking the wrong box on a form.
‘The best way to protect NHS budgets is to provide people making claims with clarity and support.
‘The government needs to do more than offer threats, fines and confusion.’
Penalty charge investigation
The National Audit Office is launching an investigation into healthcare penalty charge notices in Spring this year.
It will be looking at the number of penalties issued, outcomes, revenue generated and the cost of running the service.
The Government issues more than 400,000, £100 fines each year, many for patients ticking the wrong box on claim forms.
‘This investigation is welcome news,’ Ms Waite said.
‘The Government’s approach to penalty charges has hit hundreds of thousands of vulnerable patients.
‘And encouraged millions more to miss out on care.
‘Ministers have told patients not to run the risk when claiming.
‘But offered precious little to make navigating the system any easier.’