Dentists hit back at Ministers over slashed fees amid fears of accelerated ‘exodus’ from NHS

Dentists are calling for urgent reform of a ‘broken’ system amid fears that reduced payments for treatments will accelerate an ‘exodus’ of NHS dentists.

The British Dental Association (BDA) has hit back at Health Secretary Humza Yousaf in an open letter after he informed the profession that payments they receive for treatments are being reduced.

NHS dentists were told that the ‘multiplier’ which sets the payment rates will be cut from 1.7 to 1.3 in a letter from Mr Yousaf which claimed “fee claims will attract an additional 30 per cent on top of actual activity”.

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However, the BDA has rubbished the claims as ‘irrational’ and warned it will accelerate dentists moving away from NHS to private treatment only, reducing access for patients and driving up health inequalities.

Pic: Leon Neal/Getty images

The union also stressed in the letter that many younger dentists are being pushed to carry out botox, fillers and other facial aesthetic treatments to supplement poor NHS fees.

It comes after health chiefs in the capital confirmed four practices have moved to private treatment only – forcing thousands to either cough up more cash or find another practice.

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health emergency – with the city’s children among the hardest hit.

Figures show 83 per cent of children are registered with an NHS dentist in Lothian – the lowest number across all health board areas in Scotland. Ninety-two per cent of adults are

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registered.

The row over slashed fees erupted at the same time as the Health Secretary hailed the “substantial improvements” in access to dental services since Covid restrictions eased.

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Scotland has already lost five per cent of its NHS dentists since Covid struck.

The BDA has repeatedly voiced its strong opposition to a return to the pre-Covid “treadmill” however, it said now there’s growing anxiety that the Government will look to remove the ‘multiplier’ support altogether.

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Chiefs told the Evening News that heavy-handed policies could lead to a similar crisis as in England where thousands of dentists have left the NHS since lockdown, amid warnings from MPs that the service south of the border now faces a ‘slow death’.

In a recent survey one in ten said their practice is likely to stop operating and 80 per cent estimated their practice would reduce its NHS commitment.

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David McColl, chair of the British Dental Association's Scottish Dental Practice Committee has urged the Scottish Government to develop a suitable interim funding package to support dentists as they work through Covid backlogs.

He has also asked the Government to confirm if it’s lawful to expect dentists to deliver services while operating at a loss.

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Mr McColl said: "The Scottish Government has failed to understand we can't have NHS dentistry without NHS dentists. If they want to spark an exodus from the workforce, they are going about it just the right way.

“Ministers have already pulled away vital support and are yet to commit to needed reform of a broken system.

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“In the last election Scotland was sold free NHS dentistry for all. Unless ministers think again, this will be a promise that simply can't be kept."

The Scottish Government was contacted for comment.