‘Excruciating neglect’ – Scottish government to debate NHS dentistry

Scottish government accused of 'excruciating neglect'

The British Dental Association (BDA) Scotland has welcomed the announcement that NHS dentistry will be debated in the Scottish Parliament.

The debate will take place this Wednesday (21 February), led by member of the Scottish Parliament Willie Rennie. The MSP accused the Scottish government of ‘excruciating neglect’, citing cases of DIY dentistry performed with tools from Amazon. He also discussed cases of patients ‘traveling hundreds of miles’ to access dental care abroad.

The BDA supported these reports with its own data. It said 83% of Scottish respondents to a recent survey had treated patients who had performed DIY dentistry since lockdown.

The association went on to address the ‘crisis’ facing NHS dentistry in Scotland. In particular, it stated that rising costs are leaving dentists carrying out treatments at a loss.

Charlotte Waite is director of the BDA Scotland. She said: ‘The crisis in this service has seen desperate patients take matters into their own hands, or head overseas for care that should be available in their own communities.

‘The Scottish government unveiled some reforms back in November. Time will tell if it’s enough to turn the tide, so those who want and need NHS care can secure it.’

The road for reform

In November, a reformed payment system for NHS dentistry came into force in Scotland. It included changes to fees charged for many treatments, and the number of treatments available reduced from 400 to 45.

When the changes were announced, the BDA stressed that these reforms offered ‘no fundamental changes’ to the model of care. Chair of the BDA Scottish Dental Practice Committee David McColl said: ‘We’ve secured some improvements, but the fundamentals of a broken system remain unchanged. The Scottish government have stuck with a drill and fill model designed in the 20th century.’

With the subject of NHS dentistry now to be debated further, the BDA said that it has been seeking a decisive break from the existing system. It hopes for a move to more preventive-focused and patient-centred care.

It said: ‘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.’

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