Scottish dentists moving towards private practice as NHS dentistry dwindles, new survey shows
The British Dental Association (BDA) has warned the future of NHS dentistry in Scotland is in doubt, and “action must be high on the agenda for the next first minister”, as a survey carried out by the organisation found more than half of Scottish dentists have already reduced the amount of NHS work they undertake.
The survey revealed 59 per cent have reduced their NHS work, but 83 per cent say they are planning to reduce NHS work within the next year. Meanwhile, just one in five (21 per cent) of dentists say their practice has returned to pre-pandemic capacity, with a majority (61 per cent) citing recruitment problems as an issue.
David McColl, chair of the BDA’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said: “Behind hollow boasts on record workforce numbers is a service that is hollowing out. The majority of dentists have pared down their NHS work and many more are set to follow. It’s an exodus that’s going untracked by government, but is the inevitable result of working to a broken system.
“NHS dentistry’s survival requires rapid action, with meaningful reform and sustainable funding. The steps taken in the next first minister’s first 100 days will determine whether this service will have a future.”
Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the survey “indicates that the crisis in NHS dentistry across Scotland is far greater than official figures would suggest”.
“On top of an exodus of dentists from the NHS altogether, others are reducing their health service work – rather than abandoning it completely – so the drop-off in NHS provision is not being accurately recorded,” he said.
“The upshot is that Scottish patients are finding it harder and harder to see an NHS dentist. This is all happening on Humza Yousaf’s watch, yet he has done precious little to address their concerns.
“Alongside the BDA, I have repeatedly warned the health secretary and the SNP Government that NHS dentistry is on a cliff edge, but they have refused to listen. Patients are paying the price for this inaction as they struggle to get appointments, leading many to resort to dangerous ‘DIY dentistry’.
“It is clear that the SNP’s current funding model is completely unsustainable going forward. Whoever wins the SNP’s bitter leadership race must urgently outline a plan to save services from collapsing.
“A failure to do so will have devastating consequences for patients, particularly those living in rural communities and more deprived areas.”
Scottish Labour MSP Paul Sweeney said “the very existence of NHS dentistry in Scotland is at risk”. “Under the SNP, NHS dentists have been left high and dry and services have gone into freefall,” he said.
“We now face an exodus of dentists due entirely to SNP neglect. Without action now to support dentists, we face a two-tier dental service with only who can afford treatment receiving it.
“The disastrous health secretary who created this crisis cannot be rewarded with the top job.”
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.