MASSIVE DIFFERENCES in the fees charged by dentists and GPs have emerged in a survey which also shows that almost 70 per cent of dentists and half of doctors fail to display their prices.
Patients of one GP in Dublin 4 pay €70 for a consultation, twice the lowest fee, which is charged by a doctor in Co Kerry, the survey by the National Consumer Agency reveals.
The biggest cost variations are in dentistry, where fees charged for basic procedures in some parts of the State are almost four times the cheapest fee.
The cost of a simple tooth extraction varies from €40 to €150 depending on where you live, while a scale and polish ranges in cost from €25 to €90, according to the individual dentist.
Lucky patients attending seven of the dentists surveyed get their teeth examined for free, but fees elsewhere range up to a maximum of €86 in one practice in south Dublin.
Overall, Dubliners pay most for their medical and dental services, though there are significant variations in cost within the city.
The NCA has now written to the representative bodies in both professions asking them to draw up a code of practice on pricing.
The survey also identifies large regional variations in the propensity to display fees.
In Tallaght/Walkinstown, for example, 80 per cent of doctors surveyed display a schedule of charges, compared to 22 per cent in Cork.
Some 54 per cent of dentists surveyed in Waterford display prices, versus just 9 per cent in the Cork region.
The NCA does not name the doctors and dentists in the survey, which was based on a representative sample of 251 practices.
Overall, 32 per cent of dentists and 50 per cent of doctors surveyed display their prices.
Consumer agency chief executive Ann Fitzgerald says there is no reason why doctors and dentists should be exempt from the general requirement to display prices for routine services.
Since a proportion of both professions are already doing this, there is no good reason why all doctors and dentists could not do so.
Ms Fitzgerald is also asking Minister for Enterprise and Employment Batt O’Keeffe to support measures for greater price-display transparency.
Prices for GPs range between €70 at one practice in Ballsbridge/Sandymount to €35 in Tralee/Killarney.
The overall average is €51.
Just eight doctors say they charged lower fees for children, though other say they use discretion in charging children.
Prices for a routine examination range from nothing at seven dentists’ practices around the State to €86 charged by one practice in south Dublin.
The overall average is €44.
The overall average for a scale and polish is €61, with fees ranging between €25 at a practice in Dundalk/Drogheda to €90 in south Dublin.
Mel Bates, spokesman for the Irish College of General Practitioners, says patients are able to find out about doctors’ prices in a variety of ways.
Medical services could not be compared to other goods and services such as petrol stations because they were more involved, he told RTÉ.
The Irish Dental Association said the variation in fees showed there was “real competition” in the sector.
Costs for dentists in the Republic are 40 per cent higher than in the North, and costs are higher in urban areas, where fees tend to be higher.
Meanwhile, the dental association claimed 6,000 people who travelled abroad for dental treatment in the last year had received corrective treatment on their return to Ireland.
It said 75 per cent of Irish dentists told a survey they had provided treatment to patients in these circumstances.