Colin Smyth
Colin Smyth

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has demanded action from the Scottish Government on the “exodus” of dentists from the NHS in Dumfries and Galloway.

In recent months, thousands of patients in Dumfries, Annan, Castle Douglas, Thornhill and Gretna have been de-registered from NHS dentists.

The British Dental Association recently warned the Scottish Government that the future of NHS dentistry is in doubt, saying an “exodus is in motion”.

Their latest survey of General Dental Practitioners across Scotland showed over half (59%) report having reduced the amount of NHS work they do since lockdown. Now over four in five (83%) say they plan to reduce or further reduce their NHS commitment in the year ahead.

Speaking during General Questions in the Scottish Parliament last week, Colin Smyth asked the Scottish Government “what action it is taking to tackle the reported exodus of dentists from NHS dentistry”.

Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport Maree Todd said payment reforms were being introduced and this “will maintain the confidence of NHS dental teams by ensuring the future viability of NHS dentistry in Scotland”.

Colin Smyth continued: “The minister referred to confidence, but she will know from the crisis in Dumfries and Galloway that the reality is that no one can currently register with an NHS dentist. Practices in Dumfries, Annan, Castle Douglas and Thornhill have deregistered 20,000 patients. Crucially, half of those who are registered have not seen an NHS dentist for more than two years.

“Given that the research from the British Dental Association, which warned about this exodus, shows that well over half of dentists have reduced their NHS work, what assessment has the Government made of the changes to the whole-time equivalent NHS dentist workforce since lockdown, and what guarantee will the minister give that my constituents will actually get to see an NHS dentist?”

Speaking after the question session, Colin Smyth added: “More and more dentists are deregistering NHS patients and the very future of NHS dental care in the region is now hanging by a thread.

“The double whammy of the UK Government’s Brexit, which has meant there are almost no EU dentists coming to the UK and the Scottish Government’s failure to properly fund dentists means I fully expect more dental practices to follow.

“Both Governments have been warned this would happen but have failed to take adequate action. Unless they wake up to the crisis, I fear no adult in our area will have an NHS dentist.”

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