Visions for dentistry set out at conference of Scottish LDCs

26 April, 2024 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

Anas Sarwar, the Leader of Scottish Labour, led a rallying cry for delegates at the 2024 Conference of Scottish LDCs, and promised to listen, learn and take away the expertise of the profession to allow his party to develop a plan for Scottish dentistry.

He outlined his concerns for NHS dentistry in Scotland and reflected on his own experiences working as an NHS dentist, fearing that “we are now looking down the barrel at a two-tier dentistry system in our country where those with the ability to pay more opt to go private, and those without the means, going without.”

On access to NHS dental services, he cited registration and participation data showing that a third of patients registered with an NHS dentist went without an examination or treatment for three years, and large numbers have been unseen in five years. He went on to warn that health inequalities remain stark with only 68.1% of P7 children in the most deprived areas found to be decay free, compared to 89.7% in the least deprived.

On workforce he cited that nearly all health boards say recruitment and retention of dentists and dental team members has an impact on the ability to deliver NHS dental services.

He acknowledged the changes associated with Payment Reform and welcomed what he described as “any progress in tackling antiquated working” but went on to say it “falls well short of the root and branch change required to make the service fit for future generations.” Stating that “the drill and fill approach needs to be replaced with a preventative model of dentistry that promotes good oral health.”

Jenni Minto, Minister for Public Health and Women’s Health, focused on what she described as the historic point which NHS dentistry was now at, following the recently implemented payment reform. The First Minister’s prospectus sets out a commitment to have “sustained and improved equitable national access to NHS dentistry” by 2026. She went on to explain that payment reform cannot stand on its own and that future changes are being considered, stating that the key objective is to support the sector.

On access, she recognised that local issues do remain but said that there is not an NHS dental access crisis. Workforce is the next priority as she sees it, with the proposed provisional registration process an important step for the pipeline of dentists. Consideration is also being given to the use of skill mix and the dental team. She concluded by thanking the profession and wider dental team for their hard work, resilience and dedication.

In February, the Scottish Conservatives outlined a vision for health, including dentistry, promising that they will “prioritise root and branch reform of the Statement of Dental Renumeration so dentistry is viable, based on delivering holistic, modern, best practice services.”

The Scottish Greens have said they will “ensure equal access to dental service” and will work with the profession to ensure funding and workforce are available to address the backlog of cases that have been generated by the pandemic, as well as preserving the Public Dental Service.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have a campaign to “Save NHS Dentistry in Scotland”. They state that “NHS dentistry in Scotland is in crisis” and have called for the Scottish Government to rewrite what they have described as “the failing NHS Recovery Plan and to reform structures to combat waiting times, boost the numbers of dentists, and enable everyone to be seen quickly.”

As Scottish Dental Practice Committee Chair, David McColl told delegates we are speaking up for the profession, and the millions it treats. A spokesperson for the BDA added: “We are heartened that more questions are being raised on dentistry at Holyrood than any other time for a generation. NHS dentistry remains high on the political agenda. That’s where we intend to keep it.”

Tags: LDC

Categories: News

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