Health and Wellness

No wonder you can’t get an NHS dentist appointment! Outrage as taxpayer-funded medics are doling out Botox and lip fillers for up to £400 a pop

NHS dentists are facing backlash for selling Botox and lip fillers for up to £400.

MailOnline found practices across the country flogging aesthetic treatments — including one that offered a ‘facial slimming treatment’. 

It comes amid an ever-worsening NHS dental appointments crisis. 

Desperate patients have endured mammoth 4am queues in a quest to be seen. 

Some have flown to war-torn Ukraine for cheaper private dentistry, while others have resorted to household tools to carry out ‘DIY’ treatments. 

John O’Connell, chief executive of thinktank the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘When patients are scrambling to get any available place for basic dentistry, they’ll wonder how there are so many available slots for cosmetic treatment. 

‘Provided the basics are provided for taxpayers, surgeries ought to be able to seek additional revenue sources.

‘But the first priority is to ensure that good-quality dentistry is available to adults and children in every corner of the UK.’

But dentists and patient advocacy groups say dentists themselves aren’t to blame.

How much will NHS dentistry now cost?  

There are 3 NHS charge bands with the new prices coming in from April 1:

Band 1: £26.80

Covers an examination, diagnosis and advice. If necessary, it also includes X-rays, a scale and polish, and planning for further treatment.

Band 2: £73.50

Covers all treatment included in Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions).

Band 3: £319.10

Covers all treatment included in Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.

Instead, they argue that offering such aesthetic treatments is one of the only ways underfunded NHS dental services can ‘keep the lights on’. 

Twyford Dental Care, in Berkshire, has ‘some funding’ for NHS patients after ‘basic’ services.

But patients there can get lip filler for £400, and even a ‘facial slimming treatment’ using a muscle inhibitor for £1,000. 

All Smiles Dental Care in Essex is another NHS provider that offers some aesthetic treatments like dermal fillers for £250 a pop.

Meanwhile, West Kensington NHS Dental Care offers both Botox and dermal fillers for up to £350 a piece, alongside its health service treatments. 

Some clinics which boasted of taking on new NHS patients, like Wandsworth Dental Centre, sell Botox for as little as £150. 

MailOnline also found other centres which take on NHS patients such as Dental Beauty Islington and Morden Dental Practice offering aesthetic treatments, though they didn’t list their prices. 

Campaign group Toothless in England, which is advocating for ‘an NHS dentist for everyone’, said the situation was an ‘unfortunate, but inevitable’.

A lack of funding for NHS dentistry has forced some to branch out into the lucrative aesthetics sector, according to Mark Jones, its campaign coordinator.

He told MailOnline: ‘Patients in desperate need for dental treatment will rightly feel aggrieved by seeing local services being withdrawn in favour of cosmetic procedures.

‘Despite all the empirical evidence proving that provision of good oral healthcare is cost effective for the NHS, successive governments have failed patients, failed the dentists and failed the NHS by not ensuring adequate financial reward is embedded within the current dental (GDS) contract.

‘Dental practices can hardly be blamed for exploring markets where offering new services make financial sense.

‘One of Toothless in England’s campaign objectives is to see radical reforms made to the GDS contract so that NHS dental practices will become more commonplace in our communities once again.’

Lib Dem health and social care spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said the examples uncovered by this website showed the NHS dental care system was ‘completely broken’.  

‘Something has gone terribly wrong if it is easier to get an appointment for cosmetic dental treatment than a check up at your local NHS dental surgery,’ she said. 

‘People are crying out for more NHS dental appointments and our hard working dentists want to treat more NHS patients. 

‘But this Conservative government’s broken dental contract is letting both patients and dentists down by failing to fix this mess. It’s time that they took action.’

Preet Kaur Gill, shadow minister for primary care and public health, also blasted the situation as an example of ‘Tory mismanagement’ of NHS dentistry.

‘For 14 years the Government has promised reform of the outdated contract and has failed to deliver it,’ she said. 

‘As a result, dentists are leaving the NHS in their droves.’

Shawn Charlwood, chair of the British Dental Association (BDA)’s general dental practice committee, said practices had provided a mix of NHS and private work since 1948.

However, he added years of underfunding of NHS dentistry meant more and more dentists were turning to private work to ‘keep the lights on’.   

‘Private work is on the up because of this Government’s failure to offer this service a credible rescue plan,’ he said. 

‘Dedicated practices have been left delivering NHS care at a loss, reliant on private income to keep the lights on and the rent paid. 

‘This isn’t the 19th Century. Ministers shouldn’t be expecting any health professional to operate like a charity.’

Figures show 24,151 dentists took on NHS work in England in 2022-23, down from 24,272 in the previous financial year – a drop of 121 year-on-year.

A different kind of filling. NHS clinics are offering cosmetic procedures like Botox and dermal fillers whilst scores of patients struggle to access basic dental care in what unions warn is a growing trend of dentists needing to offer such treatments to ‘keep the lights on’

The total is also roughly 500 fewer than the number of dentists carrying out health service work in 2019-20, the last year before the Covid pandemic struck. 

The BDA fears numbers could drop even further to below 24,000, a figure not recorded since 2014-15. 

NHS dentist attendance figures for both adults and children dived off a cliff during the Covid pandemic as practices shut as part of lockdown rules and stopped offering treatments.

But it has failed to bounce back despite the darkest days of the pandemic being well into the past. 

Industry experts suggest this is because offering NHS treatment is not as lucrative as going private.

Old NHS contracts for dentists paid them for batches of work carried out rather than for individual treatments, regardless how complicated a particular case might be. 

In practice, this meant NHS dentists were paid the same for treating a patient that needed 10 fillings as for a patient that needed just one.

This resulted in dentists on some occasions losing money from treating NHS patients as the remuneration didn’t cover the costs of doing the procedure.

While this contact has now been reformed, the BDA estimates thousands of NHS dentists abandoned or vastly scaled back their NHS work post-pandemic. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We have worked closely with the British Dental Association and others to reform the dental contract in 2022, including paying dentists more for treating more complex patients.

‘As a result, we have seen improvements, with 1.7million more adults and 800,000 more children seeing a dentist last year compared to 2022. 

‘We continue this work with industry to develop further reforms that will properly reflect the different care needs of patients, fairly remunerate practices and expand and support the NHS dental workforce.’

The spokesperson also highlighted the Government’s recently announced £200m dental recovery plan.

This will offer dentists cash incentives to take on new NHS patients and provide £20,000 golden hellos to get dentists working in so-called ‘dental deserts’ in a bid to get an additional 2.5million appointments in the next year.  

The overall plan — unveiled 10 months after it was promised — was slammed by dental bosses and politicians for not going far enough.

The BDA has said that it amounted to ‘rearranging the deckchairs’ and it won’t bring the desired, and much-needed, change. 

Named dental practices were also approached for comment.   

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