Labour promises free dental check-ups if elected
LONDON, UK: The UK general election is just weeks away, scheduled to be held on 12 December. In recognition of the oral health inequalities that exist within the nation, the Labour Party has announced that, if elected, it will abolish charges for all dental check-ups in England.
The plan will cost an estimated £450 million per year, according to analysis conducted by the British Dental Association (BDA), and includes routine oral cancer screening as part of each check-up. A routine dental check-up with an NHS-registered dentist currently costs £22.70 in England. If this cost is eliminated, more English residents will be encouraged to visit the dentist, according to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“Over half of adults and 40% of children haven’t been to the dentist in the last year,” Corbyn stated in a press release.
“If you don’t go to the dentist for check-ups, you end up storing up problems in the long term. Over 100,000 are admitted to hospital every year because of problems with their teeth,” he continued.
“This is the first step towards making all dentistry services free of charge—part of our ambition to deliver free dentistry as part of a truly universally free health service,” Corbyn added.
The BDA was vocal in its support for Labour’s proposal and pointed to the fact that free dental check-ups have existed in Scotland since 2006. As a result, 66.6% of adults in Scotland attend an NHS dentist at least once every two years, a figure that drops to 50.2% in England.
“When you give patients a reason to avoid check-ups, they bottle up problems and pile huge pressure across our NHS,” said Dr Mick Armstrong, Chair of the BDA’s Principal Executive Committee.
“Sadly, prevention is impossible when families on moderate incomes need to think twice about seeking care. Dentists are health professionals, not tax collectors. These charges are designed to discourage attendance, while providing cover for government cuts,” continued Armstrong.
“However any plans to boost access must go hand in hand with support for a service facing serious recruitment problems. NHS dentistry cannot be delivered without NHS dentists,” he concluded.