Nicola Sturgeon rejects Labour criticism of manifesto pledge to abolish dentistry charges

Nicola Sturgeon has rejected Labour criticism of one of the SNP’s key election pledges, to abolish dentistry charges.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 7:47 am

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The Nationalist manifesto includes a commitment, if re-elected, to scrap the treatment charges over the course of the next parliament and reform funding arrangements for NHS dentists. The roll-out would start with care-experienced people aged 18-26.

But Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who was a dentist before becoming a parliamentarian, said while he backed the principle of abolishing charges he feared the move could prove counter-productive by leading to a reduction in the range of dental work allowed under the NHS and more people going for private treatment.

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Nicola Sturgeon went leafleting as part of a campaign visit to Edinburgh Central

He said: “What risks happening is, and this has happened too many times under this government already, you reduce the number of treatments that are available on the NHS and reduce the number of treatment options you have on the NHS, meaning you're pushing more people to getting private treatments.”

However, on a campaign visit to Edinburgh Central on Tuesay, Ms Sturgeon insisted there was no intention to reduce the treatments available.

She said: “Anythng can be counter-productive if you don’t do it properly. I'm not going to gainsay his personal expertise in this – his background is as a dentist – but we don't intend for it to reduce the choice of treatment.

"What we intend is firstly to complete that restoration of the NHS to its founding principles and also take away the cost barrier, which is also good for the rest of the health service. If you don't go for dental treatment right now because you don't want to or you can’t pay the cost then you will end up potentially seeking emergency treatment at an A&E. So this makes sense in terms of the efficiency of the heath service as well as taking away the cost barrier.

“It's very strange position, is it not, for a leader of the Scottish Labour Party to be in, where he appears to be arguing against the extension of universal health care.”

Labour’s manifesto is due to be unveiled on Thursday after the launch was twice postponed due to the death of the Duke of Edinburgh and then a clash with a Scottish Government Covid update.

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