Dental practice owners say they have 'no confidence' in government

A group of dental practice owners have said they no longer have confidence in the consultation arrangements between the Scottish Government and their representative body, as anger grows about NHS patients being refused treatments which private patients can receive.

Dentists say they have lost confidence in government decisions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dentists say they have lost confidence in government decisions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new Scottish Dental Practice Owners’ Group, which consists of around 466 practices caring for 3.5 million patients, has raised concerns about oral health as NHS dentists are still forbidden to carry out routine treatments such as fillings, and cannot use compressed air to check for cavities during check ups.

The strict measures were put in place at the height of the coronavirus outbreak, with practices closed to patients and emergency treatments – in the main extractions – only available at Urgent Care Centres.

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However since lockdown easing has begun, private practices who have paid for surgical-grade PPE have been allowed to provide treatment to patients, including the use of aerosol equipment. But the Scottish Government has refused to allow NHS surgeries to do the same, with the SDPO blaming the decision on the cost of supplying the correct PPE.

The body has also accused the Scottish Government of ignoring its letters and says that practice owners no longer have “confidence that the established consultation arrangements between the Scottish Government and our existing representative body (Scottish Dental Practice Committee), are fair or effective.”

Chair of the SDPO, Dr Mohammed Samad said: "The SDPC themselves have acknowledged on a number of occasions that they find the Scottish Government unwilling to negotiate, tending to simply dictate their terms. This behaviour by the Scottish Government is long-standing and has led to a gradual degradation and subjugation of both the profession and NHS dental services, over the last decade or more.

“We have no confidence the Scottish Government will engage with the profession to develop a framework for NHS dentistry beyond this pandemic, will deliver reasonable terms for our members and, most importantly, deliver accessible and high quality NHS dental care to the Scottish population.

“A further example of the Scottish Government’s unwillingness to engage constructively with the profession is their failure to respond to our own letters. Our group now represents the vast majority of Scottish dental practice owners. We wish to engage with the government to develop a sustainable model for the future delivery of NHS dentistry in Scotland, and we have sent multiple letters to both the First Minister and the CDO. We have received nothing more than an acknowledgement of receipt to these letters.

“We wonder whether the Scottish Governemnt realises that if our members’ practices fail, or are forced to withdraw from providing NHS care, then potentially millions of Scots will lose access to NHS dental care.”

Dr Samad said that dentists were receiving letters from the Chief Dental Officer, Tom Ferris, but they simply “outline the dates and terms of each stage of the ‘reopening’ process. To date, the profession has been given very little notice of progression to the next stages, indeed we often learn at the same time as the wider population, at the First Minister’s press conferences. We see this as another example of the lack of respect and consideration towards our profession. We are perplexed and saddened by SGs behaviour towards our profession.”

He said the SDPO was keen to work with the government to “shape an effective, high quality NHS dental service for the duration of this pandemic and beyond. It should be in the interests of all parties for this to happen- patients, dentists, and government. This goodwill on our side must be matched by Scottish Government if a good outcome is to be reached.”

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However the claims of the SDPO were today refuted by the National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch. Asked about the lack of confidence in the government by the dental profession at the daily coronavirus briefing, he said: “The Chief Dental Officer has engaged with the the Britsh Dental Association, and the representative body and that's the right thing for him to do, that’s the representative group for dentists in general and has been for decades.

"The practice owners' group is new and they have a particular set of challenges that we accept, and the Chief Dental Officer is keen to hear from them and engage with the broad profession to try and find a way through some of these really challenging issues in the route map out, and they are challenging because of the nature of what dentists do.

“They do have good experience in infection prevention and control but there's over 1000 practices that the CDO has to have some kind of oversight and responsibility for, so he’s working as fast as he can to get us to the next stage.

"There has been financial support for many dental practices and that will continue and we will get to the next stage of the map as quick as we can.”

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