The British Dental Association is calling for the reinstatement of the option for dentists to charge a fee for missed appointments.
A survey conducted by the BDA suggests that NHS dentists in England each lose the equivalent of almost two weeks a year because patients fail to turn up for appointments and this could be denying significant numbers of other people the chance to access dental care.
The research indicates that more than three-and-a-half million dental appointments were missed last year with the problem being more prevalent among new patients. Findings also suggest that the problem has become more acute since the ability to charge patients for missed appointments was abolished in the 2006 dental reforms.
John Milne, Chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: "Sometimes there are genuine reasons why it’s just not possible for a patient to keep an appointment with their dentist and everybody understands that, but the results of this research suggest that the scale of this problem is significant.
"Dental surgeries use letters, telephone calls and even text messages to remind patients of forthcoming appointments, so it’s really disappointing to see that so many people appear prepared to deny others access to care by failing to show up. This not only wastes dentists’ time, but also taxpayers’ money. With many people still failing to secure the dental appointments they want, and the public purse under pressure, that’s simply unacceptable. This problem needs to be tackled and the BDA believes that the Government should consider reintroducing a fee for patients who miss appointments to deter them from doing so."