Dental patients in Scotland are facing waits of up to four and a half years for treatment, it has emerged, prompting claims that the service is being treated as an “optional extra” by Scottish ministers.
People in Grampian face the longest waits in the country, although patients in Tayside who wait of up to two years.
The figures were obtained through Freedom of Information by the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, who warn the lengthy delays risk “disrupting patients’ lives”.
The British Dental Association Scotland has said the Scottish Government must “take responsibility” and tackle the issue.
They reveal that the longest outpatient waits in Scotland last year was 243 weeks – over four and a half years – in Grampian for oral and maxillofacial surgery. This is a field which covers children who are born with deformities of their skull or surgery in young adults following an injury or accident, as well as older people with mouth cancers and skin tumours.
A wait of 131 weeks was recorded in Tayside, while a 51-week wait was recorded for restorative dentistry in Orkney and there are waits of more than 40 weeks in Shetland and the Borders.
David McColl, chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said:
“Patients shouldn’t be waiting eons for life-changing surgery. These procedures can help restore both functionality and appearance to a patient’s teeth and mouth after cancer or serious injuries.
“Years of underinvestment and failure to support high street practice are heaping huge pressures on our hospitals. Ministers can’t go on treating dentistry as an optional extra.”
Inpatients also faced lengthy waits, according to the figures, including up to 126 weeks in Grampian and 40 weeks in Forth Valley and Fife. Waits of up to 39 weeks were recorded in Greater Glasgow & Clyde and 38 for oral surgery in NHS Borders.
Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “These new figures have shed light on the staggeringly long waits some patients face for important dental treatment. In many cases such lengthy delays are seriously disrupting patients’ lives.
“Across Scotland, dental consultant vacancies are going unfilled and patients are left waiting. The most recent official figures confirm a ‘noticeable drop’ in NHS dental staff, down almost 15 per cent in the past five years.”