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Over 3.5 million lost dental appointments: new figures point to perversity of Scottish Government plans

The British Dental Association Scotland has warned new data underlining the scale of the backlogs facing practices demonstrates the absurdity of government plans to return to pre-COVID models of care.

The new figures from Public Health Scotland indicate that the number of treatments delivered in the year to March 2021 was less than 25% of those delivered in the previous 12-month period, corresponding to over 3.5 million appointments lost as a result of the pandemic.

Last week Cabinet Secretary Humza Yousaf wrote to all NHS dental teams in Scotland that all emergency support will be withdrawn by 1 April 2022. Since the first lockdown NHS practices have operated under a COVID support package, reflecting pandemic pressures and tight infection control restrictions that continue to limit capacity across the service.

Owing to ongoing disruption dentist leaders stress patients are now presenting with higher levels of need, requiring additional time. BDA Scotland have warned that the return to a 'business as usual model' – low margin and high volume – will put practices under unsustainable financial pressure and will likely lead to closures or movement to the private sector.

In light of the SNP's centrepiece policy of providing free NHS dental care for all, BDA Scotland have stressed the need to develop a new, sustainable model for delivering care. In the interim, a workable funding model is needed to support dentists and their teams to care for their patients.

David McColl, Chair of the British Dental Association's Scottish Dental Practice Committee said:

"Dentists are facing an unprecedented backlog, as we continue to work to restrictions designed in the first lockdown.

"This new data underlines the sheer perversity of government plans to pretend COVID is yesterday's news.

"Withdrawing emergency funding will pull away the life support from hundreds of dedicated NHS practices serving communities across Scotland."