Dentist fines: Mistakes over addresses hitting thousands says BBC

Many fines incorrectly imposed after dental treatment are because of mistakes over patients' addresses, says a health watchdog. The latest figures show 385,000 fines were issued in the last financial year - and dentists say tens of thousands of £100 fines have been wrongly applied.

Healthwatch, which represents people using health services, has been researching the reasons behind this problem and says many mistakes seem to be caused by how patients' addresses are recorded.

Director Rory Deighton says differences in spelling, variations in how addresses might be presented or mistakes in postcodes could be misinterpreted as being a different identity.When addresses do not match information held in databases used for checks, penalty fines could be triggered, he says.

The NHS Business Services Authority, which oversees the fining system, says there is also a difficulty with patients not updating their addresses, leading to discrepancies between their current addresses and addresses held in databases.

Mr Deighton suggested that where there were uncertainties about addresses, checks should be made before any fine was issued.

“Capturing accurate name and address information correctly at point of data entry is vital in solving this problem” says Jon Good from Hopewiser.  “Address Capture software could help eliminate the errors by checking the spelling of the address and correcting wrong postcodes.”

In addition, Organisations must understand that data decays and alters when people move and sadly (but inevitably) people die.  Data that has been collected over many years should be periodically cleaned using cleansing software to ensure the deceased are eliminated and movers are corrected.

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