Concerns have been growing about a widening inequalities gap between those who can afford private dentistry and those who rely on the NHS, as they are not able to receive full treatments.
NHS dentists across Scotland have written to the government demanding to know why they cannot work fully, while private dentists are able to do so, with many claiming the issue is around the cost of PPE which the government would need to supply.
Private dentists have been able to pay for fully fitted face masks, but the government’s Chief Dental Officer has told NHS dentists that they will only be given standard PPE, and as a result cannot offer full dental treatments yet, including drilling and using compressed air in check ups.
The government’s National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch, said yesterday he and the Chief Dental Officer, Tom Ferris, had written to private practices asking them to abide by the NHS lockdown route map timescales, but admitted while they had no power to prevent them from working they would be safe.
He said: “There is a difference between dental provision in different places but the CDO has a very clear route map back to full dental care. Emergency dental care and drilling has been available on the NHS in 70 or so Urgent Care Centres throughout the country.
“Tom, the CDO, is working quickly to move to the next step of the route map which would allow aerosol generating procedures to be done in the thousands of practices. I wrote with Tom to the private dental practices and asked them very clearly to follow the same route map as the NHS dentists. We have slightly less control over what they do because of the nature of contracts, but it was clear advice to follow the same as the NHS. Care has been available and it’s coming back to full dental care.”
Asked if private dentists were potentially putting people at risk, he added: “Dentistry isn’t putting anyone at risk, they’re well trained at infection prevention and control and I know they’ll all have adequate PPE so I don’t think patients are at risk. Tom is very keen to get NHS practices back as soon as we can with the full gamut of care. We’re making choices for a broad range of dentists across the nation..”
One Lothians dentist who did not want to be named, said they were only seeing a handful of patients a day and only when people were “in complete agony, which is leading to extractions rather than just fillings.”.
Dr Mohammed Samad, chair of the Scottish Dental Practice Owners Group, said dentists were still suffering from conflicting advice from the government and individual health boards.
He added: “Why can NHS hubs be provided with adequate PPE to do AGPs but AGPs cannot be completed in general practice under the NHS? Is their a belief that dentists in practice are not as skilled or trained as those in hubs or is it the PPE supply?
“Dentists believe that the oral health of Scotland is at a new low.”