Dumbarton MSP slams ‘growing crisis’ in dental care


Less than half of adults in the most deprived areas – such as West Dunbartonshire – have seen a dentist in the past two years.

In NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which covers the area, less than half of adults had seen a dentist in the two years to September last year.

Dental health has been hit hard during the pandemic, with people unable to seek treatment during the lockdown.

New figures from Public Health Scotland reveal the inequalities that have likely been further exacerbated by Covid.

Only 45.1% of adults in the most deprived areas have managed to see an NHS dentist in the last two years, compared to more than 56.4% in the least deprived areas.

Although 55% of children in the most deprived areas had been seen by a dentist during the same period, this figure was 73.1% at the other end of the wealth spectrum.

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie has denounced a ‘growing crisis’ in dental care.

The Labor politician spoke out during a recent debate in parliament saying she fears the ‘privatisation of dental care through the back door’ will prevent people in the most deprived areas from affording treatment.

She said: “It is now clear that the SNP’s catastrophic failure to support Scottish NHS dentists has led to a shocking increase in dental inequality which is impacting people locally.

“We already know the very existence of NHS dentistry in Scotland is at stake, with the current funding model leading to backdoor privatization, but we now have evidence that thousands of Scots have no not seen by dentists in years.

“The fact that people from poorer backgrounds, including people in my constituency of Dumbarton, especially children, are less likely to have received treatment is nothing short of a national disgrace.

“This cannot continue.

“Humza Yousaf needs to wake up to the crisis facing NHS dentistry before it reaches the point of no return.

“Dental care in Scotland cannot be allowed to become the privilege of the few who can afford to go private.”

It was previously estimated that around 3.5million NHS dental appointments have been lost in Scotland since the first lockdown, due to ongoing restrictions.

A spokeswoman for NHSGGC said dental care is being prioritized based on clinical need, focusing on those that require urgent and essential treatment first.

She said: “As social distancing requirements remain at 2m for healthcare facilities, for both staff and patients, this reduces the number of people who can attend practices at any one time.

“As most dental treatments also involve the production of aerosols, known as aerosol-generating procedures, there is a need to allow a fallow time, on average 30 minutes, before the surgery can be cleaned and used again. .

“This places additional limits on the number of treatments that can be provided each day.”

She added that as independent contractors, dentists are responsible for deciding how well they are able to offer NHS treatment, with some making the decision to operate private treatment only.

It is agreed that the Public Dental Service (SDP) will provide routine care to patients if they cannot see their usual dentist.

Last week the Scottish Government announced that dentists would be rewarded for seeing more NHS patients.

New, revised payment arrangements for NHS dentists will be more closely linked to the number of patients they see under changes introduced in April.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: “The pandemic has had a significant impact on the provision of dental care and now we need to focus on recovery and ensuring we equip the sector to deal with the significant dental backlog.

“Starting in April, the new system will help dentists see more patients while avoiding a precipice for practices and ensuring a smooth transition during what is still a stressful time for dentists.
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