NHS dental charges in England to rise 5% for each of the next two years
NHS dental charges in England will rise 5% for each of the next two years, the Government has announced, while prescriptions will also rise this year.
Prescriptions will jump from £8.20 to £8.40 from April 1, and there will be a rise for wigs and optical vouchers.
The charge for a band 1 course of dental treatment - which covers an examination, diagnosis and, if necessary, X-rays or a scale and polish - will rise from £18.90 to £19.70, and in 2017/18 from £19.70 to £20.60.
A band 2 course of treatment - which covers all treatment in band 1, plus procedures such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth - will increase from £51.30 to £53.90, and in 2017/18 from £53.90 to £56.30.
Band 3 - which covers all treatment covered by bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures such as crowns, dentures and bridges - will increase from £222.50 to £233.70, and in 2017/18 from £233.70 to £244.30.
The British Dental Association (BDA) criticised the move and said dentistry was facing the biggest hike.
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, chairman of the BDA's general dental practice committee, said: "This unprecedented hike in dental charges will only serve to discourage the patients that are most in need of care.
"This money doesn't go to NHS dentists - they are being asked to play the role of tax collector, while our patients are singled out to subsidise the health service.
"We can't tell them how this extra money will be spent, and whether a penny of it will actually end up improving dental care or access to dental services.
"For Government, these increases may be a source of easy money but they will only undermine the relationship between patients and practitioners.
"These charges were first introduced in 1951 to limit demand for NHS dentistry, and that's precisely what they do best. Government has given patients another reason to avoid visiting their dentist."
The Government said dental charges remain "an important contribution to the overall cost of dental services".
Community and social care minister Alistair Burt said: "NHS dental treatment will remain free for those under the age of 18, those under the age of 19 and receiving full-time education, pregnant women or those who have had a baby in the previous 12 months, and those on qualifying low-income benefits.
"If someone does not qualify for these exemptions, full or partial help may be available through the NHS Low Income Scheme."
On prescriptions, he said 90% of prescription items are dispensed free.
He added: "To ensure that those with the greatest need, and who are not already exempt from the charge, are protected, we have frozen the cost of the prescription prepayment certificates (PPC) for another year.
"The three-month PPC remains at £29.10 and the cost of the annual PPC will stay at £104. Taken together, this means prescription charge income is expected to rise broadly in line with inflation.
"Charges for wigs and fabric supports will also be increased by an overall 1.7%.
"The range of NHS optical vouchers available to children, people on low incomes and individuals with complex sight problems are also being increased in value. In order to continue to provide help with the cost of spectacles and contact lenses, optical voucher values will rise by an overall 1%."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "Raising charges will always be a difficult decision, but these increases for those who can pay means income can be reinvested into the NHS, as part of our vision for a safer, seven-day service.
"We will continue to protect those on the lowest incomes and children, ensuring they receive free NHS dental treatment."