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More than £70m in public money was claimed by dentists in 2009-10 for work that was never done, demonstrating Labour’s “botched stewardship” of NHS dentistry, a health minister said on Tuesday.
Lord Howe was responding to figures produced by NHS Protect, an agency charged with tackling crime across the health service, which showed that 1m “inappropriate claims” were submitted leading to an estimated overpayment of £73.1m.
Under a contract introduced in 2006, dentists are paid under three broad bands, rather than for a specific item such as a filling or crown. The department of health says the change made it easier for dentists to submit claims for more expensive treatment than they actually delivered.
A dentists’ contract, being piloted, will reward dentists for the quality of care they deliver rather than simply the volume of work. In addition, the NHS reforms, which became law this year, will remove responsibility for funding “high street” dentistry from more than 150 primary care trusts and hand it to the NHS Commissioning Board. This, say ministers, will make it easier to spot and tackle fraud.
Lord Howe added: “Taxpayers will rightly be appalled at the £70m price tag they are paying for Labour’s botched stewardship of NHS dentistry.”
But Jamie Reed, shadow health minister, accused the Conservatives of “shamelessly playing politics by trying to blame the rules instead of the people who break them”.
Mr Reed added: “Fraud is the fault of the fraudster, not the contract.”