Millions paid to dentists for dead patients
A review of dental services across Scotland found dentists are paid for at least 150,000 people who are either deceased or being treated elsewhere.
The revelation, which comes as health boards struggle with shortages in dental provision, was described as "outrageous."
Dentists can pocket up to 4.96 a month for each NHS patient on their books, and it is understood the bill to the taxpayer for the duplicate patients could be around 500,000 a month.
The Scottish Government admitted there was a problem and said duplicate registrations were due to errors caused by a new system for dental patient rolls.
A lifelong registration system was introduced in April, which replaced the previous scheme where patients not attending for three years were struck off practice rolls.
But Tory health spokesman at Holyrood, Murdo Fraser, demanded a full investigation into what he claimed was a waste of taxpayers' cash.
He said: "We have always suspected that the picture with dentistry was nowhere near as rosy as the SNP liked to paint it, but this is outrageous.
"Thousands of Scots are desperate for access to an NHS dentist - how must they be feeling when they hear this news?
"An urgent investigation is the very least we need, and let's hope it doesn't throw up any more shocking findings like this."
Dental checks on the NHS are free in Scotland as the government pays a monthly fee per patient to practices - 96p a month for people aged between 18 and 64, but up to 4.96 for teenagers aged between 13 and 17.
The payments for duplicate patients are understood to have come to light after the British Dental Association (BDA) raised concerns about the new registration system.
Robert Kinloch, chairman of the BDA's Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said: "The BDA raised concerns about the accuracy of patient data last year during the debate about the introduction of lifelong registration, questioning whether the lists of patients held by the NHS in Scotland included duplicated or deceased individuals.
"If such individuals are included in the published patient figures, there would clearly be implications for their accuracy.
"We are pleased to see our concerns have now been investigated."
Mr Kinloch went on to claim that any registration errors were not the fault of dentists and suggested that any overpayments should not be clawed back.
He said: "If monies have been incorrectly paid to dentists this will have happened because of problems with the Scottish Government's data.
"Dentists will not have been aware that the error was being made and will have invested the money they have received in their surgeries - in premises, staff or meeting increased decontamination costs."
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said yesterday: "The move to non-time limited dental registration has highlighted duplicate patient registrations which led to errors in payments.
"Practitioners Services Division are undertaking urgent remedial work to remove all duplicates from the register.
"This will help to eliminate any further errors in payment."