South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has raised ‘serious’ concerns about dental services in the South of Scotland with Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.
Continuing Covid restrictions mean that dentists are still seeing fewer patients leading to lengthy waiting times for treatment – unless patients choose to pay privately, in which case the treatment can be provided with very little wait.
The local MSP’s concerns come at a time when Public Health Scotland revealed that the number of dental treatments carried out in Scotland last year fell to just a quarter of the figure for the previous 12 months. Adults underwent 966,904 separate courses of treatment in 2020-21, down from 4,110,580 the previous year. The British Dental Association also recently warned that a third of dentists may quit the profession if the Scottish Government goes ahead with plans to withdraw all pandemic emergency support to dental practices by April 1, 2022.
Speaking in the debating chamber during the Health Secretary’s Covid update last Tuesday, Colin Smyth said: “Public Health Scotland reported last week that Covid restrictions led to a massive 3.5 million fewer dental treatments last year.
“Restrictions still significantly limit the capacity of dentists to provide as wide a range of treatments as usual.
“I am receiving an increasing number of complaints from constituents that they cannot receive a certain treatment on the NHS without an unbearable wait and that they are being told that they can get the same treatment with no wait—often from the same dentist—if they go private.
“Does the cabinet secretary accept that that two-tier system will get worse if the Government ends emergency funding for the sector, because the need to maximise private treatment income will increase further?”
Speaking after the session, Colin Smyth added: “I have very serious concerns about what this means for the future of our dental service.
“As it stands, there’s a shocking disparity between the treatment that can be provided on the NHS and privately, meaning that if you cannot afford to pay, you are often faced with a terrible wait, while those who can pay are seen with little delay.
“Dentists across south Scotland have huge backlogs from the past two years and the situation is becoming desperate for many people. If, as feared, we see an exodus of dentists then we will be back to previous problems we saw in the area where local people simply could not get dental treatment on the NHS. We need urgent action and I will continue to press the Scottish Government on this very important issue.”