English teeth and the American dream

[Monday]

To paraphrase the poet John Hegley: these NHS dentures were devised / before my teeth were privatised.

English teeth don’t have the best reputation – the crooked yellow smile of Austin Powers famously mocked our poor dental health.

Now a survey of 5200 people has found that 20% refused treatment on grounds of cost and 6% are forced to perform DIY dentistry on themselves because of the cost of private dentistry and the shortage of NHS dentists. This might sound amusing to those who can afford the pearly whites of a rich American, but gluing your teeth back together is no laughing matter – especially if you use too strong a glue. And as for pulling them out

So what has happened? Well, as with GP’s contracts, the government has made little effort to negotiate for us in recent years – the result being that dentists are much better off with private patients or with only doing minor things to the teeth of NHS patients.

Some NHS patients, upon finding out that their coverage is reduced, have taken out a dental plan with their dentist – a form of health insurance. They have been forced to “go private”. And here a have the sign of things to come: health insurance, if you can afford it. Those who can’t pay, go without.

And it’s not as if going private is an easy or preferable option for working people, it’s just that the alternative is too painful to contemplate. Money that might have been saved is spent on expensive treatments and insurance payments.

But this raw deal is not down to mismanagement on the part of the government. As their intention, the full privatisation of healthcare, is popular only with the US “healthcare” companies and would-be high-street providers like Boots, the government has had to reduce provision.

Under Tory goverments, both Conservative and Labour, the NHS has been prepped for privatisation by downgrading its status as the monopoly provider of healthcare for working people. This news, while shocking in content, hasn’t surprised those who are aware of the government’s agenda.

If the privatisation of healthcare in this country is not reversed, future surveys might discover people performing surgery on themselves…

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