Bristol dental patient left 'shocked and disappointed' by NHS dental fees

People queued for three days to register as NHS patients when St Pauls Dental practice opened -Credit:AA Access scaffolding
People queued for three days to register as NHS patients when St Pauls Dental practice opened -Credit:AA Access scaffolding

A Bristol resident who queued for days to get an NHS appointment in the city earlier this year, said he and his wife were left disappointed at how much they still had to pay for some treatments.

When the new dental practice opened in St Pauls back in February, thousands of people queued for the possibility of finally getting local treatment under the NHS. Ben Brown registered at the new practice, but has told Bristol Live he did not have the experience he expected.

Mr Brown and his wife experienced tooth pain during the pandemic, but were unable to find a dentist in Bristol that was open to new NHS patients. Eventually they joined a private practice but were unable to pay the fees so, like so many others, desperate for NHS dental services, queued for days to get an appointment when the St Pauls Dental practice opened earlier this year.

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Unlike other NHS services, most adult patients have to pay for NHS dental treatments, which have been increasing over the years. Mr Brown said he was left disappointed after being told he would need his molar extracted and would have to pay over £70 to see a hygienist under the NHS.

“It feels so unjust to make people feel so lucky to get a dentist appointment, some people for the first time in 10 years, only to be told sorry, we can't do anything because we can't afford it,” he explained.

“It’s not advertised as a private practice, it’s advertised as an NHS practice but there are just so many services they don’t cover. The dentist had a look at me and offered to take the tooth out rather than offer a root canal and my wife was told, ‘if we offered root canals on molars then that would be all we would be doing’.”

St Pauls Dental operations manager Shivani Bhandari said: “Every case is different, not every patient can have root canal treatment. If they feel it is a complicated root canal treatment, they would be open and honest.

“It’s a mixed practice but we don’t push patients to go for private treatment but are legally bound to offer all the options, if they do not qualify for NHS treatment. There is a banding system and not all treatments are available on the NHS.”

The NHS prices are set according to a banding system which is explained on the NHS website . Root canal treatment is set at band 2, for a set price of £73.50 unless patients are eligible for free treatment, the cost of a hygienist is set at band 1 (£26.80) or band 2, depending on the course of treatment.

As a result of the way NHS dentistry is funded, many dentists have reduced the number of NHS patients or opted to abandon their NHS contracts completely. “We’ve just opened and we are trying our best,” added Ms Bhandari.