My dentist said I didn't have to pay but now the NHS has charged me £233 and fined me £100: TONY HETHERINGTON investigates
Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday's ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
A.P. writes: I am a 67-year-old pensioner. Recently I required dental work and was informed by the dental practice there would be no charge. Weeks later though, I received a letter from the Dental Exemption Checking Service of the NHS Business Services Authority, informing me I had received free treatment to which I was not entitled.
I was told to pay charges of £233 plus a penalty of £100. I replied that if a mistake had been made, albeit not by me, then I would pay the charges, but it is demanding the penalty as well.
Costs: Dentists have guidelines, but they are not enforced
Tony Hetherington replies: You have been caught in a trap under NHS rules that assume anyone who does not pay the right fee must be on the fiddle. Those rules are not enforced against dentists who make mistakes, only against patients.
The NHS issues dentists with guidelines entitled: ‘Help your patients get the facts, not a fine.’ They list half a dozen things that dentists should do, including reading the rules on who is entitled to free treatment.
They say: ‘Ask to see evidence of patients’ entitlement and check it thoroughly. Don’t make assumptions. Remember that not all benefits entitle patients to free treatment. Don’t forget that if a patient makes an incorrect claim, intentionally or otherwise, they could have to pay a penalty charge of up to £100.’
Being a pensioner is not enough to exempt anyone from charges, though your dentist may have thought this and it was what you believed after you were assured there would be no fees. So, I asked the NHS what enquiries it made before hitting you with the fine. How did it make sure your dentist had followed its guidelines?
I was told: ‘We don’t comment on individual cases.’ This is nonsense. You had signed a legally binding release, authorising officials to discuss your complaint with me.
The NHS then fell back on putting the blame on you. I was told: ‘It is important for patients to understand that although they may not have deliberately acted wrongfully when they made a claim for a free course of treatment, they do have a duty of care when claiming help with charges.’
‘But doesn’t the dentist also have a duty of care?’ I asked. Did the NHS ever question your dentist? If not, then what is the point in issuing guidelines that are simply not enforced?
Charming: The NHS issues dentists with guidelines entitled, ‘Help your patients get the facts, not a fine'
Unbelievably, the response was: ‘It is very unfortunate if the practice did misadvise Mr P, so if he can get the practice to send a letter to us confirming that it misadvised him, then of course we will review his case and the application of the penalty.’
This is like the police being given the details of a robber and then telling the victim it is up to them to get the robber to sign a confession. The NHS has gone for the easy target, without even bothering to call your dentist.
In its evidence checking guide, the NHS tells dentists: ‘Your role is crucial.’ But the truth is the opposite. Officials finally admitted to me: ‘We don’t undertake any checks with dental practices.’ Its guidelines are simply not enforced, with one NHS staffer confessing: ‘We’re unable to police whether practices followed these procedures.’
The bottom line is that the NHS says it has no power to ask your dentist anything, while it expects you to get your dentist to admit in writing that he ignored all the guidelines, gave you false advice and landed you with a fine.
If any helpful MP would like to question Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt about this, I will be glad to provide full details.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email email@example.com. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.
12-year ban for loan cheat
The shadowy Dutch owner of a cheating loan broker has been banned from acting as the director of any British business for the next 12 years after he ripped off 50,000 customers by demanding up-front fees.
Jos Timmer, 37, controlled More Financial Limited, which used addresses in London, Basingstoke, Hampshire, and Cheadle in Cheshire. I warned in 2013 that the firm was falsely claiming it would arrange loans for a fee of £69, when all it did was forward customers’ details to genuine lenders or send them the names of credit companies and tell them to apply themselves.
Only 50 victims ever managed to obtain a loan. Timmer, who used the alias James Thompson, stayed behind the scenes. A friend, Elizabeth Rowe, registered as his company’s director. She was disqualified as a director for six years. Investigators from the Insolvency Service found that More Financial raked in several million pounds from would-be borrowers before the High Court ordered it closed a few months after my warning.
Timmer did not co-operate with investigators or hand over company records. Almost £1million was withdrawn from the business’s bank account shortly before it folded.
THIS IS MONEY'S FIVE OF THE BEST CURRENT ACCOUNTS
Barclays Bank offers cash loyalty rewards as part of its Blue Rewards scheme including £7 per month for having two direct debits from your account. The feature comes with a £3 monthly fee and you must pay in £800 a month.
First Direct's First Account offers a choice of freebies to sign up, including a £150 Expedia voucher, online development courses or free tech worth up to £170. It comes with a £250 free overdraft and requires a £1,000 monthly deposit to avoid a £10 monthly fee.
HSBC is currently giving £150 to switch plus an extra £50 to stay for a year. Account holders also get a fee-free overdraft for 6 months. You need to pay in at least £1,750 per month.
Nationwide's FlexPlus is one of our favourite package bank accounts. It pays 3% interest on up to £2,500 and comes with family worldwide travel insurance and breakdown and mobile cover for £13 per month. The account also comes with a £250-free overdraft.
M&S; Bank's current account has a £125 gift card for joining, plus you get an extra £5 a month top up for the year. It has a £100 fee-free overdraft and no miniumum deposit criteria.
Most watched Money videos
- Big Money Questions: Alex Denny explains investment trusts
- Hyundai advert for the latest generation of its i10 city car
- Thames Water gives tips for saving water as heatwave comes back
- Aston Martin's Cygnet city car with a 430bhp V8 engine
- Has England's World Cup run really boosted the economy?
- PrivateFly's animation explains their private jet charter network
- How focusing on the kitchen can add value to your home
- How to create a This is Money Power Portfolio
- Best place to live in the UK?: In the county of Hampshire
- How will higher interest rates affect economy? (related)
- The original Peugeot 205 Bombardier Ad (archive)
- The sun came out and house prices went up this summer