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GPs treating 600,000 patients with dental problems a year

GPs are having to deal with 11,000 consultations a year for patients with dental problems due to spiraling NHS charges for dentists, according to new analysis from the British Dental Association (BDA).

A study of over 280,000 dental consultations published in the British Journal of General Practice in May 2016 indicated a rate of dental consultations of 6.06 consultations per 1,000 patient-years among GPs.

The BDA says this equates to around 600,000 consultations for patients – over 11,000 a week - with dental problems at GP practices every year.

GP leaders said that dealing with dental problems is piling more pressure on GPs.

Patient charges – dubbed by the BDA as a ‘tax on health’ - were first introduced in 1951 to lower demand for NHS dental services.

The BDA’s general dental practice chair, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said: ‘Ministers insist the NHS will remain free at the point of use, but keep ramping up England’s dental charges. Already these inflated charges are pushing those who can’t pay towards overstretched GPs, who aren’t equipped to treat them. It’s bad for our patients, and it’s bad for the NHS.’

Dental charges in England increased by 5% this year, and are set to rise by a further 5% in 2017, alongside further falls in state funding for NHS dentistry.

The Personal Social Services Research Unit has calculated the unit cost for GP services as £44 for 11.7 minutes of patient contact.

This would suggest a minimum added cost to the NHS of dental problems being handled by GPs at around £26.4 million per year, says the BDA. 

Dr Maureen Baker, RCGP chair, said: ’GPs are not dentists – and patients who are experiencing pain or discomfort with their teeth and/or gums, should seek an appointment with their local dentist, not their family doctor.’

’There may be a number of reasons why patients make an appointment with their GP and not their dentist, but doing so only serves to take scarce appointments away from patients who could benefit from them at a time when general practice is under intense workload pressure, and puts their own safety at risk as they are not accessing the most appropriate care in the first instance.’

 

 

Readers' comments (28)

  • The answer is not to make NHS dentistry free to stop NHS GP crowding out self pay and top up options for primary care.

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  • The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the cardies who continue to treat outside their area of competence by dishing out antibiotics. This would stop very quickly if dental patients were asked to see a dentist and nothing was offered. The cardies will never agree. Please remember that you WILL NOT be covered by your MDOs for any problems that arise, especially when it turns out to be a cancer.

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  • Since our older Cardie GPs retired, our dealings with dental proble,s has dropped to zero because no one prescribes or treats any dental problems. We do not have the training or the skills to do this, just like we can not do plumbing and heating. Why would you do it?

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  • its difficult because they cant get in with the dentist or the dentist tells them to ask me for a px. i tell them i am not competent to deal with it, and then you get irate patients, and a lot of complaints.
    if we had more clear guidance from gpc etc to put in our surgeries then this would help us a lot

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  • There is clear guidance. You ARE NOT trained. Complaint reply would be one line with no apology. You came to the wrong place. This is a GP surgery, not a dentist. Your dentist would not treat your uti or chest infection as they are not trained, even though they can prescribe antiobiotics

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  • A sad reflection of the state of the NHS. Seeing a GP is always the easy option. Agree we should not prescribe for these patients but it adds to our stress and workload. I'm sure Mr Hunt will sort this out...or maybe not.

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  • we have now explicitly declared that we are Not Insured by our defence insurance providers for dental work and so have been formally advised locally that we Cannot Treat even if we wanted to help. no doubt painkiller requests will still increase though.

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  • I once told a patient who was arguing about us refusing dental care to them that we could no more service their teeth than their dog. Like vet care, dental is a completely different specialism. Think your MDO will protect you when it goes wrong? JUST SAY NO.

    06 Sep 2016 10:13am - Spot on. If we charged the same as the dentists patients wouldn't come to us, but you'll have to add it to WIC/MIUs and A&E too.

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  • so what counts as dental work?
    this is what we need clarity on
    is it anything to do with the mouth?
    is it anything except sore throats (although we shouldnt be seeing these as most viral)?

    if we know what we can/cant do about mouth stuff then it becomes easier for you to say no.
    if its woolly then you get these situations

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  • so what counts as dental work?
    this is what we need clarity on
    is it anything to do with the mouth?
    is it anything except sore throats (although we shouldnt be seeing these as most viral)?

    if we know what we can/cant do about mouth stuff then it becomes easier for you to say no.
    if its woolly then you get these situations

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