Meghan Gallacher MSP has slammed the Scottish Government over the “crisis” in NHS dentistry and the huge backlog of dental appointments in the region.
The Conservative politician who represents the Central Scotland region has backed calls for the reversal of a decision to withdraw emergency funding from dental practices from April 1.
The funding is to be replaced by the introduction of an alternative interim model but significant concerns remain that it is to be imposed without “meaningful negotiation”.
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British Dental Association (BDA) Scotland have accused the Scottish Government of “falling asleep at the wheel” in what it describes as a “crisis” in NHS dentistry. And they have warned that the future of dental practices face serious uncertainty.
The Scottish Conservatives led a recent debate and held a vote in the Scottish Parliament calling out what they believe is a failure by the SNP to provide dental services the resources they need to tackle the pandemic backlog.
But a parliament motion, led by Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP and backed by both Labor and Lib Dems MSPs, was rejected by the government.
“Humza Yousaf needs to wake up to the scale of the crisis in NHS dentistry in Lanarkshire and take action now,” said Ms Gallacher. “A huge backlog of appointments have built up during the pandemic and it is our poorest communities in Lanarkshire which have suffered the most.
“That is completely unacceptable.
“The British Dental Association have been warning for months that there could be a mass exodus of NHS dentists unless Humza Yousaf listened to their concerns, but he has completely failed to do so.
“It is hugely disappointing that the SNP rejected this motion from the Scottish Conservatives.”
The Tory MSP believes long-term funding is needed for dentists to ensure patients in Lanarkshire can resume regular dental care.
“We must clear this backlog in Lanarkshire and ensure patients can get regular check-ups once again,” she added.
Statistics gathered by Public Health Scotland showed that on September 30 almost half of registered dental patients had not seen a dentist for more than two years. And children living in the most deprived areas are more likely to miss out on being seen than those living in the most affluent areas.
And a survey from the British Dental Association (BDA) revealed that four out of five dentists said they are either “extremely likely” or “likely” to reduce their NHS commitment. And almost two out of five that they were “extremely likely” or “likely” to change careers or seek early retirement.
Public Health Minister Maree Todd said:“The pandemic has had a significant impact on the provision of dental care and our focus must now be on recovery and ensuring we equip the sector to work through the significant dental backlog.
“From April, the new system will support dentists to see more patients while avoiding a cliff-edge for practices and ensuring a soft transition during what is still a constrained period for dental teams.
“Importantly, this means dentists could earn more than they do now through COVID-19 payment support.”
Over 3.5 million NHS dental appointments were lost in Scotland as a result of the pandemic, according to BDA Scotland.
They insist there needs to be an increase in fees for extractions and denture repairs, services which they claim are often provided at a loss.
David McColl, Chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee didn’t share the Health Minister’s enthusiasm over the incoming interim funding model, claiming it had been “railroaded through”.
He added: “The idea this package is the result of meaningful negotiation is laughable, and any idea that practices can see more patients from April flies in the face of the facts. Dentists are still working to tight restrictions, and there is no sense we are returning to anything resembling ‘business as usual’. The Government needs to communicate this clearly to patients.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.