Patients 'misled by private dentists'

Dentists may be misleading their patients about their NHS entitlements to prompt them to pay for private care, a watchdog has said.

Half a million patients a year may have unnecessarily paid to receive private dental treatment after receiving inaccurate information from their dentist about health service entitlements, an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) study found. Patients are given insufficient information to make informed decisions about their choice of dentists and the treatments they receive and the dental industry is not always working in their best interest, the report said.

The OFT has called for major changes to the dentistry market after the study also raised concerns about restrictions preventing patients from directly accessing dental care professionals, such as hygienists, without a referral from a dentist.

These restrictions are unjustified and likely to reduce patient choice and dampen competition, the OFT said. John Fingleton of the OFT, said: "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. We also unearthed evidence that some patients may be receiving deliberately inaccurate information about their entitlement to NHS dental treatment and we expect to see robust action taken against such potential misconduct by dentists."