Edinburgh dentists: Lothian sees biggest fall in NHS dentists since before Covid

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Lothian has seen the biggest fall in the number of dentists providing NHS services in Scotland since before Covid.

Figures show the number on NHS dentists here has dropped by 41 from 627 in 2019/20 to 586 in 2023/24. Glasgow saw a fall of 36 in the same period, in Highland the number dropped by 31 and in Fife there are now 25 fewer dentists.

Lothian has seen the biggest fall in NHS dentists since Covid.Lothian has seen the biggest fall in NHS dentists since Covid.
Lothian has seen the biggest fall in NHS dentists since Covid.

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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton accused the SNP Government of leaving NHS dentistry “to rot”.

A freedom of information request submitted by the Lib Dem to Public Health Scotland revealed that between 2019/20 and 2023/24 the total number of dentists performing NHS work in Scotland fell from 3,407 to 3,240. The only health boards not to see a decrease were NHS Ayrshire & Arran, Shetland and Western Isles.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “A concerning number of dentists are no longer offering NHS services because of the low rates they receive for that work and the endless barriers and red tape thrown in their way by SNP ministers.

“For years, the SNP have left NHS dentistry to rot. Many people are now resorting to drastic options, from DIY dentistry with tools purchased on Amazon to travelling back to war-torn Ukraine for treatment.

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“Toothcare, just like any other form of healthcare, should be universally accessible- it cannot just be for those who can afford to go private.”

He said his party had set out plans that would deliver quality, accessible dentistry in every community. The Lib Dems are calling for the current funding structure for dentists to be urgently reformed so they are incentivised to take on NHS patients.  They also say an emergency scheme to ensure those in vulnerable groups can get appointments should be considered. And they want the Scottish Government to rewrite its NHS recovery plan to recognise the importance of dentistry.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The number of dentists has been impacted by the unique challenges of the pandemic and Brexit but NHS Education for Scotland statistics showed an encouraging increase from 31 March 2023 to 30 September 2023.  This reflects the continued recovery in NHS dental services from the conclusion of the pandemic. 

 “We have introduced significant dental payment reforms to encourage more dentists to provide more NHS dentistry. In the first month following these changes, nearly 400,000 patients were seen by an NHS primary care dentist – an early indication that our reforms are working.

 “While improving conditions for the existing workforce, we continue to work with counterparts across the UK and devolved governments to improve workforce pathways for international dentists.” 


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