MSP calls for urgent action over dental treatment amid fears over axed NHS services

A Lothians MSP has called for urgent action to stem growing dental treatment crisis amid fears over axed NHS services in the capital.

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

Reports of long waits and problems getting check-ups and other appointments for NHS patients have sparked fresh fears of a collapse in access to routine services and a growing health emergency with the city’s children among the hardest hit.

Frustrated patients are facing waits of six months or longer to be seen amid ongoing backlogs worsened by the impact of Covid restrictions.

The BDA warns of an 'exodus' of dentists from NHS leaving families without options

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 registered.

Lothians MSP Miles Briggs condemned the figures, saying more needs to be done as an estimated 20,000 children and youngsters are not getting access to dental care.

The British Dental Association told the Evening News that policies from the Scottish Government are accelerating an ‘exodus’ from the NHS, leaving more and more families without options.

One mum-of-two said: “My toddler had never been to a dentist because he wasn’t registered before Covid. It was so stressful finding somewhere. I was offered pay as you go plans at my dentist but I can’t afford to go private for all three of us.

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“It’s really frightening not being able to easily get help when your kids need it and having to try for weeks to find somewhere then wait ages to be seen and fork out money you need for bills with the costs of living going up.”

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One city practice notified shocked patients last month that they were stopping NHS treatment from October.

Links Dental practice in Bruntsfield which looks after more than 10,000 people emailed patients telling them they’d be removed from NHS list and they’d have to pay to stay with them.

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Official data suggests the total number of high street NHS dentists in Scotland has fallen by over 5 per cent since the onset of Covid, while 80 percent of dentists have expressed plans to reduce their NHS commitment.

One Edinburgh woman said she was so fed up she was considering going outside of the city to seek treatment.

The 27-year old said: "I tried about five different dentists and finally got a response from one that said I'd need to wait until October to get a check up. It's ridiculous. I'm so annoyed. I’m considering going to Glasgow to get an appointment. I haven't had a check up in so long so I really need to get one."

Lothians MSP Miles Briggs said access to dental care is a growing health emergency: "It is deeply worrying that so many families in Edinburgh are struggling to register for a dentist or get an appointment.

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“It is totally unacceptable that NHS Lothian has the lowest number of children registered at a dental practice in Scotland.

"Up to 20,000 young people in Lothian are likely not getting the dental treatment that they need. This is a growing public health emergency.

"Throughout the pandemic dentist practices have not been given the necessary support by SNP ministers and now many are going private.

"The transition out of the pandemic has been managed very poorly, leaving people struggling to get a dentist appointment.

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“It has set us back years in dentistry across Scotland and more urgently has to be done to tackle this issue.”

Jenny Long, director of primary care at NHS Lothian, said: "From June 2021 to May 2022, four practices have moved from NHS Lothian to private practice across Lothian. De-registrations are from practices who are converting to mostly providing private treatment.

"Patients who are unregistered with a General Dental Practitioner and who require urgent dental care can access the Emergency Dental Service by contacting Chalmers Dental Centre on 0131 536 4800, Monday to Friday between 9am and 4.30pm."