Stuart McMillan MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde has welcomed the news that NHS dentistry services in Scotland are to resume next month after being halted due to COVID-19.
In plans announced at Holyrood on Monday [12 October], the Public Health Minister, Joe FitzPatrick MSP, said that the Scottish Government’s understanding of COVID-19 transmission in dental settings had improved, allowing the NHS dental remobilisation programme to process and therefore enabling practitioners to provide a full range of treatments to all NHS patients within dental practices from 1 November.
Commenting, Stuart said:
“Several constituents contacted me about non-emergency dental treatments only being available to NHS patients as long as they were willing to go private.
“I wrote to the Scottish Government about this on 31 August and again on 16 September when further concerns were put to me.
“For context, when dentists were permitted to reopen, the number of appointments in any practice were limited to 10 per day and spaced out at hourly intervals to allow any viral particles released into the air to settle in the room and be effectively cleaned away. Consequently, dentists were to prioritise only the most urgent treatments.
“However, with most dentists being independent contractors providing a mix of NHS and private work, despite all dentists being issued with identical guidance, many practices realised that the Scottish Government could not force them to only perform urgent treatments if they worked solely as private surgeries. This directly led to dentists offering non-urgent care to NHS patients if they were willing to pay for private treatment.
“While I understood the need to prioritise patients requiring urgent dental care given the limited number of available appointments, going for regular check-ups is important to maintain oral health, and so this continued it would have negatively impacted on people’s overall health.
“What’s more, at a time when many people’s finances have been hit by the pandemic, I was angry that some dentists had tried to convince NHS patients to pay privately for routine dental care by claiming this was in some way a result of the Scottish Government not providing enough or removing funding.
“I appreciate that dentists are not immune to the impact of COVID-19 but this is fundamentally about providing safe dental care to all patients, not just those that can afford to go private.
“I am delighted then that NHS dentistry services will resume in full as of next month, even though practices will rightly still need to limit the number of patients they see due to the ongoing spread of the virus.”