Scots dentists pay back thousands to NHS
THE health service was forced to claw back almost £160,000 last year in payments wrongfully made to dentists for treating NHS patients.
Figures obtained by The Scotsman show that across Scotland, 159,333 was recovered in 2009-10 – the highest figure in 12 years of data available.
Over half of the money claimed back last year was from dentists in the Lothian area – a total of more than 88,000.
Dentists said mistakes in calculating fees could sometimes be made because of the complex nature of the payments system, and the vast majority of cases did not involve fraud.
The cash is recovered by Practitioner Services, part of NHS National Services Scotland (NSS), on behalf of health boards.
Money can be reclaimed in cases where dentists have mistakenly claimed for more complex procedures than were actually carried out.
For example, fees for extractions vary according to the difficulty of the procedure, and sometimes dentists may assign the procedure to the wrong category.
But all cases are referred to the NHS Counter Fraud Service to check for any potential fraudulent behaviour.
The amount claimed back varied widely between boards. Borders, Orkney and Shetland claimed back nothing while Scotland's biggest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, recovered 10,854, Tayside 19,278, and Grampian 16,867.
NSS said variations might have been due to several years of payments being claimed back in one year.
Overall in the past 12 years, a total of 768,392 has been recovered by Practitioner Services.
There are 2,417 NHS contracted dentists in Scotland, as well as 387 salaried dentists.
John Cameron, senior dental adviser at NSS, said: "Our priority is making sure patients get the treatment they need and the taxpayer gets value for money.
"Last year, overpayments represented a small fraction of the total payments made for the General Dental Service – 159,000 out of 246 million.
"In most cases these overpayments are simply due to a misinterpretation of the fees and regulations, but we make sure that where areas of concern are identified, they are investigated for potential fraud."
Andrew Lamb, director of the British Dental Association Scotland, said: "While the amount of money concerned represents a very small proportion of fees paid to dentists, it is important that procedures are in place to ensure payments are appropriate."
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