SNP can’t pretend it’s ‘mission accomplished’ on NHS dentistry, says the BDA

21 February, 2024 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

The British Dental Association has said there can be no complacency from the Scottish Government on the crisis in NHS dentistry, following today’s debate in the Scottish Parliament, in which MSPs raised the case of a single mother going without food to pay for care, with others travelling hundreds of miles for access or embarking on ‘DIY’ dentistry. 

The BDA’s own recent surveys found 83 per cent of dentist respondents in Scotland had treated patients that had performed some form of DIY dentistry since lockdown.

Some reforms to the discredited small margin/high volume system NHS dentists work to were rolled out in November 2023. This system has been in crisis for a generation but proved undeliverable during the pandemic. Facing soaring costs, some practices were left delivering some NHS treatments at a financial loss.

Recent reforms may ease problems, but Ministers can’t afford to take their eyes off the crisis in this service.

David McColl

The BDA had been seeking a decisive break from this system, and a move to a patient-centred, prevention-focused model of care. The Scottish Government refused to break with the overall framework. The BDA stress that this must be the beginning, not the end of the road for reform, and that access, outcomes and inequalities need to be closely monitored.

David McColl, Chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee said: “MSPs and patients across Scotland have sent a clear message: the Scottish Government cannot pretend it’s ‘mission accomplished’ on NHS dentistry. Recent reforms may ease problems, but Ministers can’t afford to take their eyes off the crisis in this service.”

William Rennie, the Liberal Democrat MSP, led the debate calling for the Parliament to agree that there is a crisis in dentistry, that people are finding it increasingly difficult to an NHS dentist locally and are, in some cases, resorting to DIY dentistry and that changes to the payment system that came into force last November will do little to stop the exodus of NHS dentists.

He added that since the Scottish Government committed in 2021 to abolishing all dentistry charges by the end of the current parliamentary session, charges for NHS patients have increased substantially and have been expanded to cover emergency appointments and denture repairs.

Rennie said there must be “decisive action to resolve this crisis”, and called on the Scottish Government to “rewrite the failing NHS Recovery Plan to prioritise workforce planning, boost the number of dentists taking on NHS patients and increase the number of appointments available.”

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