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Action needed for paediatric extractions

We have written to the Scottish Government urging for action to tackle the long-standing problem of lengthy waiting lists for paediatric extractions under general anaesthetic (GA).

Letter to Cabinet Secretary 5 September 2022

In April, a motion was passed at the Conference of Scottish Local Dental Committees demanding resources to address the unacceptable number of complex patients who are only able to be treated under GA.

We have urged the Government for action but have been repeatedly advised that this is a matter to be dealt with by NHS Boards. We believe that the severe and enduring nature of this problem along with the distress caused to children and their families requires a national lead, to work with boards on a local level, addressing the problem as a matter of urgency.

Before the pandemic, approximately 8,000 paediatric GAs per year were carried out to remove decayed teeth. In 2021 we estimated around 2,500 children to be on a waiting list for this procedure. Figures are likely to be significant underestimates and we predict that the problems have worsened during the pandemic.

Waiting lists for child dental general anaesthesia are not routinely reported or collected in a systematic manner, in contrast to other NHS waiting lists, making it impossible for us to obtain accurate information from Health Boards. We understand that Boards are required to submit regular figures to the Scottish Government, so we have requested the national figures for the number of children waiting for assessment and treatment along with the average waiting times.

Previous Cabinet Secretaries have taken an interest in the issue, but we have still not seen any progress to tackle the problem. Looking to the future, we hope to work together to reduce the times children are waiting for necessary, pain-relieving surgery. We have requested a meeting with Scottish Government to help resolve the issue and will keep you updated.