BACKGROUND: A dentist emails the MDDUS advice line having read a comment on an online dental forum saying that a "mixed" practice should not offer private patients root canal treatment (RCT) if also offered to NHS patients at an appropriate (lower) charge. She asks for clarification on this from a dento-legal standpoint.
ANALYSIS/OUTCOME: A dental adviser responds that the important issue here is not whether the practice is mixed NHS/private but whether an individual patient is registered as an NHS or a private patient. An NHS patient will be entitled to the full range of available treatment on the NHS and that would include RCT at the appropriate charge. A private patient or one on a practice plan should expect to pay for treatment, including RCT, at an agreed private fee or via their monthly plan payments.
What is most important in a mixed practice is to make it clear to each individual patient whether they are being seen on the NHS or privately. All patients must be given a treatment plan and written cost estimate which should indicate the basis on which treatment is being provided. There may be occasions where NHS patients opt for private treatment and this is entirely acceptable as long as the patient has not been coerced or misled to believe that the treatment is not available on the NHS – or would be provided more successfully on a private basis (“upselling”).
- NHS patients have a right to consider private treatments but should be offered all available and clinically justifiable NHS options in a neutral and professional manner.
- Such discussions must be properly reflected in the records and relevant paperwork completed.