OFT calls for dentistry reform

29 May 2012

The UK dentistry market does not always work in the best interest of patients, a study by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has found.

Around 500,000 patients each year are being given inaccurate information about treatment available on the NHS, and as a result may be paying over the odds for private treatment.

The OFT says there is not enough information available to allow patients to make informed decisions about treatment and the advice that is given is often confusing and unclear.

In the past two years, 82% of patients who received a course of dental treatment weren't given a written treatment plan, 56% said details of NHS and private services weren't displayed in the dentist's reception and 39% said there were no leaflets or posters giving information on the cost of the NHS services.


The report also said that patients are being prevented from making some appointments with other dental specialists, such as a hygienist, without a referral letter from a dentist first, which the OFT says is "unjustified" and leads to a lack of competition.

It is calling for reform in this industry and says information needs to be clearer and more accurate, patients need better access to dentists and other dental specialists and the complaints process needs to be simplified.

There also needs to be reform to the way practices are set up and it should be easier for dentists to set up new practices, or expand existing ones. At the moment practices can have contracts to supply NHS services indefinitely and this leads to a lack of competition and isn't in the best interest of patients.

"Our study has raised significant concerns about the UK dentistry market which need to be tackled quickly in the interest of patients. All too often patients lack access to the information they need, for example when choosing a dentist or when getting dental treatment," says John Fingleton, chief executive for the OFT.

Dr Roger Matthews, chief dental officer at Denplan, says: "Each patient, and their needs and priorities are different, so it's difficult to quote an exact price for every procedure." Although he agrees that "a basic and 'indicative' price list should be provided by the dental practice".

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