20-year-old woman faces £12,000 dental bill after losing teeth in cycling accident


Alex Kerr

20-year-old Alex Kerr from Milton Keynes was cycling home from work in November when she was hit by a car. She was severely injured: breaking her pelvis, her jaw and her wrist, and dislocating both knees. She was left in a coma for a week, and when she came round she discovered that most of her top teeth were missing.

Now she has discovered that the NHS may not pay to replace them.

The Daily Mail reported that Northampton General Hospital told Kerr that replacing the teeth counted as a cosmetic procedure rather than acute care, so she might have to pay for them privately - at a cost of £12,000.

She is currently waiting to see if the NHS will pay. The hospital told the newspaper that she was on a waiting list to see a consultant to assess what could be done, but that "she has not been abandoned by the NHS'.

She told the Daily Express she felt it was shocking given that the NHS paid for cosmetic procedures for other people.

Not alone

She is not the first patient to be shocked that their condition may not be covered by the NHS. It emerged last month that 14,000 patients a year are denied life-extending drugs because they are ruled to be dying.

The vast majority of them are suffering either cancer or motor neurone disease. Some 35% of people who expected to receive a drug to treat motor neurone disease were refused. Meanwhile 32% of patients who would have expected a drug to treat kidney cancer were refused, and 5% of those who would expect to be treated for age-related macular degeneration (which can cause blindness) were refused.


It's a tragedy for anyone affected, but those within the NHS argue that they cannot afford to do everything. Medical inflation was running at 6.5% last year - and has been running away for decades. The NHS may have escaped the brunt of the spending cuts, but there's no new money for the service, so something has to give.

One of the roles of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) is to work out the benefit received for every £1 spent on a particular drug or treatment - and whether it's worth funding this or whether the budget could do more good elsewhere.

However, there is also evidence of local NHS organisations cutting back treatments that have been approved by NICE, in order to cut their own costs. Professor David Haslam, chairman of NICE, said last month that patients ought to be more pushy with their doctors and demand that they receive approved medications - but arguably we should be able to expect the right care without having to fight for it.

But what do you think? is the NHS needlessly penny pinching? Or does it have to draw the line somewhere?

10 consumer rights you should know

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