Rules which mean NHS dentists and GPs are banned from carrying out certain treatments which their counterparts in the private sector are allowed to perform, are ‘deeply unfair’ and undermine the whole concept of free healthcare, according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

The local MSP has written to Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman to demand answers after several constituents got in touch about GP surgeries no longer providing ear syringing. Prior to Covid-19, GP surgeries routinely performed the procedure within practice on patients as an NHS service.

However, as lockdown measures have changed, many have attempted to re-book their appointments for this service, only to have been given a leaflet advising that GP surgeries can no longer offer this treatment.

The options they have been given is to either book a private appointment (e.g. at Specsavers) or follow instructions to administer oil at home.

A similar situation has been seen with NHS dentists, where Covid-19 guidelines mean routine filling, crown and root canal procedures are still banned – but is available at full price if patients pay privately.

Colin Smyth said: “During the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, it was correct that many NHS treatments and surgeries were cancelled to try and halt the progress of this terrible virus.

“As lockdown has started to lift, some of these procedures have been restarted, where safely possible. However, while the Scottish Government deem it unsafe for some treatments to restart on the NHS, they are quite happy for them to be provided privately. How can treatment be safe privately but not on the NHS?

“It is grossly unfair that it is only those who can afford to pay who can be treated for conditions which, while not life threatening, can have a serious impact on the individual’s daily life. I have been contacted by a large number of constituents incensed that they were refused treatment on the NHS because of Government rules but told if they are willing to pay, they can receive the treatment privately.

“In allowing this to happen, the Scottish Government is creating a two-tiered health care system which completely undermines the principles of our NHS.

“I have written to the Health Secretary to demand answers for the many people who are suffering and yet who cannot afford to pay for treatments which should still be free.”

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