SNP leader rejects Labour criticism of pledge to abolish dentistry charges
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, has rejected Labour criticism of one of the party’s key election pledges, to abolish dentistry charges.
The SNP’s manifesto includes a commitment, if re-elected, to scrap treatment charges over the course of the next parliament and reform funding arrangements for NHS dentists. The roll-out would start with care-experienced people aged 18-26.
In response, the British Dental Association said it would work with a future SNP Government to rebuild services, but it cautioned that the party’s plans “must go hand in hand with needed investment if services millions depend on are going to remain sustainable”.
A spokesperson added: “We are of course ready to work with the SNP on these pledges, which could fundamentally change the way dentistry is delivered in Scotland, but we need to see detail. We need assurances that any loss of patient charge revenue would not lead to a reduction in overall funding for our service.”
And Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who was a dentist before becoming a parliamentarian, said that while he backed the principle of abolishing charges he feared the move could prove “counter-productive”, by leading to a reduction in the range of dental work allowed under the NHS and more people seeking private treatment.
However, the Edinburgh Evening News reported that on a campaign visit to Edinburgh Central on Tuesday, Sturgeon insisted there was no intention to reduce the treatments available.
She said: “Anything can be counter-productive if you don’t do it properly. I’m not going to gainsay his personal expertise in this – his background is as a dentist – but we don’t intend for it to reduce the choice of treatment.
“What we intend is firstly to complete that restoration of the NHS to its founding principles and also take away the cost barrier, which is also good for the rest of the health service.
“If you don’t go for dental treatment right now because you don’t want to or you can’t pay the cost then you will end up potentially seeking emergency treatment at an A&E. So this makes sense in terms of the efficiency of the heath service as well as taking away the cost barrier.
“It’s very strange position, is it not, for a leader of the Scottish Labour Party to be in, where he appears to be arguing against the extension of universal health care.”