People are being wrongly fined £100 for going to the dentist, it has been reported.
More than 40,000 people a year in England are receiving the fines, according to the BBC.
The fines are supposed to be handed out to people who are deliberately taking free treatment when they should be paying to go to the dentist.
However, the industry has warned that many vulnerable people are also getting fined by the automated system, in some cases simply for ticking the wrong box on a complicated form.
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Dentists say people with dementia or those with learning difficulties are among those being unfairly penalised.
The NHS has admitted there are problems with the system and has promised changes, the BBC reported.
The fines total about £4 million a year and are imposed by a random screening process that checks if people are entitled to free dental treatment.
The BBC said that of the fines that are challenged, nine out of ten are overturned because they were applied incorrectly.
Dentist Charlotte Waite, vice-char of the British Dental Association’s England community dental services committee, is heading up a campaign to stop fines for the elderly and those with dementia or learning difficulties, who have made honest mistakes when filling out forms.
She pointed out that incorrectly describing benefits on an application form for free care can trigger a penalty fine, which rises to £150 if payment is delayed.
She said dentists are faced with the dilemma over whether or not to treat people who may then be fined.
‘I feel very strongly that clinical time should be spent on clinical work,’ she told the BBC.
‘It’s an extreme waste of clinical time. We really need to sort this out now.’