‘I’m not paying for someone else’s mistake’

Steve Wright with a letter containing an apology from the Department for Work and Pensions
Steve Wright with a letter containing an apology from the Department for Work and Pensions

AN injured joiner is facing court over a dentist bill he says he was told he did not have to pay.

Steve Wright, 46, was forced to stop working at the beginning of this year after suffering with “unbearable” pain from slipped discs in his back.

He started receiving contribution-related Employment and Support Allowance and says he was told by a worker at the Department for Work and Pensions that the benefit entitled him to free dental treatment.

Steve went for dental treatment at Flemmings Dental Surgery, in Victoria Road, Hartlepool, in March. But soon afterwards he was lumbered with a £198 bill issued by the NHS Dental Services.

Another £100 was added to the bill a month later as Steve had not paid. Last month he received another letter saying another £50 had been added and the bill is now £348.

The letter threatened to take him to court if he didn’t pay the bill. Steve says he is prepared to go to court and refuses to pay for what he says is someone else’s mistake.

“I wouldn’t have even gone to the dentist if I knew I was going to have to pay,” added Steve, who lives in Stonechat Close, in Bishop Cuthbert, Hartlepool, with his wife Jan, 50, a catering manager at Durham University. “I haven’t got two pence to pay never mind nearly £350. But I was told I wouldn’t have to pay.

“I booked myself in and didn’t think any more of it. Then I received a letter saying I owed the money.

“I can’t believe all of this is happening. All I got is a filling capped.”

A spokesman for the NHS Dental Services said the declaration that patients have to sign states that contribution-related support does not make the patient eligible for free treatment.

Steve said: “I have received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions apologising for any mistake. But it isn’t good enough.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We apologise for any incorrect information he may have been given.

“Anyone who is unsure about how to pay for dental care can find full information on DirectGov or can call 0845 8501166.

“People on low income can claim for dental care through the NHS Business Services Authority and can apply to them for a refund if appropriate. We have provided Mr Wright with details of how to apply and given the information he needs.”

Flemmings Dental Surgery was not available to comment.