Dentist at work in her surgery before the virus lockdown.

By Bill Heaney

Getting money out of the government can be like pulling teeth, according to small firms which have had to close during the coronavirus lockdown.

Ironically, one group that has been having particular difficulty obtaining funding has been dentists.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon asked Finance Secretary Kate Forbes what the government was doing to ensure that dental practices remain viable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

And to ensure they are able to meet any increase in demand when the outbreak is over.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and Labour’s Monica Lennon.

Ms Forbes said the Government is currently providing additional emergency funding to the national health service general dental services budget to support NHS dental practices for the temporary loss of patient contributions.

She added: “We are confident that we have the capacity within the NHS to meet any additional demand for dental services.

“Access to NHS dentistry is at a record level, with 95.7 per cent of the Scottish population now registered with an NHS dentist, compared with 51 per cent in 2007.

“Dentists might also be eligible for the small business grant scheme and have applied to the pivotal enterprise resilience fund.”

However, Ms Lennon said hundreds of dental practices are struggling to access support – “The British Dental Association wrote to the cabinet secretary on 22 April to express serious concerns about the financial viability of wholly or mainly private practices.

“What assessment has been made of how many dental businesses do not qualify for current support?

“Will the cabinet secretary commit to expanding business funding for mixed NHS and private practices that have a high percentage of private patients so that they can remain viable?”

Ms Forbes replied: “That is a fair question. Depending on the circumstances, dental practices might be eligible to apply for other support measures, including furloughing staff through the job retention scheme, or they might be able to access the grants that I mentioned earlier.

“There is also the bounce back loan scheme and the United Kingdom Government’s coronavirus business interruption loan scheme to support small and medium-sized businesses.

“Such situations are among the reasons why we introduced £185 million for additional grants, including through the pivotal enterprise resilience fund.

“The enterprise agencies are working extremely hard to process applications as quickly as possible and to get money out the door.

“Dental practices are eligible for a wide range of support, but I will take the point away. If the BDA has written to me, it will get a reply.”

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