By Bill Heaney
People are suffering from toothache are finding it hard to get an appointment with their dentist.
Labour MSP Sarah Boyack, pictured right, asked Maree Todd, the SNP Public Health Minister, to provide an update on how it will address the backlog in national health service dentistry.
Ms Boyack told her: “I previously received a response that said that a record number of people are registered with an NHS dentist, but constituents are writing to me with their concern that they are still unable to find an NHS dentist with whom they can register, and that delays in appointments are not getting shorter.
“I am also aware of NHS dentists who have gone private. Is the minister not concerned about that state of affairs, and what action is the Scottish Government taking to fix it?”
Ms Todd told MSPs at Holyrood today: “We are moving forward rapidly with NHS dental recovery and are supporting the sector to build back to a pre-pandemic level of activity.
“We have invested additional funding of £5 million to improve ventilation in dental premises and a further £7.5 million for the purchase of speed-adjusting handpieces.
“Those particular instruments can be used in a wide range of clinical procedures where standard non-aerosol precautions might be applied.
“Those measures, alongside a 50 per cent increase in the amount of free enhanced personal protective equipment available, will make it possible for NHS dental teams to see substantially more patients while operating under the current infection prevention and control measures that are required for the safe operation of dental treatment.”
She added: “I am concerned about that state of affairs. The challenge for dentistry is that aerosol-producing procedures and the infection prevention and control measures constrain the level of activity that dental practices can undertake.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, we expect the situation to improve. Dental practices will be able to register and see new patients. At present, it is more difficult for dental practices to see new patients because of the restrictions.
“As the arrangements for dental registration are made through the local health board, a patient who has difficulty finding NHS dental care should contact the health board first in order to access appropriate care.
“For patients to be offered private care instead of NHS care is completely wrong and unacceptable,” Ms Todd said.
She added: “An NHS-registered patient should not be offered private dental care if the same treatment is available on the NHS, and instances of that behaviour should be reported to the NHS board.
“If the member has examples of those instances, I am happy for her to write to my office and my officials will pass that information to the relevant board.”