The BDA has welcomed news that the Public Accounts Committee is launching an inquiry into NHS penalty charge fines.
News follows an investigation from the National Audit Office which found 30% of healthcare fines issued since 2014 – 1.7 million notices, with a cash value of £188 million – were withdrawn because a valid exemption was confirmed to be in place following a challenge. Outsourcing giant Capita is used for some of the fines and debt collection for dental treatments.
The Public Accounts Committee is the single most powerful of Westminster's committees, tasked with scrutinising government expenditure. It has exposed some of the worst fiascos in the history of public sector contracts including the NHS National Programme for IT, and escalating decommissioning costs of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site. They have also recently quizzed the boss of Google over the company's controversial tax arrangements.
In the 2010-15 Parliament, the Committee held 276 evidence sessions and offered 1,338 recommendations to government departments, 88% of which were accepted.
Speaking at the time of the NAO report's publication, Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said "The NHS must take urgent steps if it is to avoid causing unnecessary distress to patients tripped up by an overly complex system, who end up facing large penalty charges."
She added: "Almost a third of prescription and dental penalty charges issued to patients were later revoked, because they had a valid exemption. This is not a system that is working as it should."
Charlotte Waite, Chair of the BDA's England Community Dental Services Committee said:
"This inquiry will be welcome news to over a million innocent patients fined for claiming free care they were fully entitled to. "The Public Accounts Committee has form tackling giants like Capita and Google. Dentists believe this failed fines regime requires the same scrutiny. It can give a voice to all those vulnerable patients who depend on our NHS."