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Next First Minister must halt exodus from NHS dentistry

We've warned the Scottish Government the future of NHS dentistry is now in doubt and the next First Minister must take urgent action.

Our latest survey of General Dental Practitioners across Scotland shows over half (59%) report having reduced the amount of NHS work they do since lockdown. Now over four in five (83%) say they plan to reduce or further reduce their NHS commitment in the year ahead.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf recently said that NHS staffing was "at a historically high level", with 'record' numbers of dental staff in hospitals alongside medics and allied health professionals. However, NHS Education for Scotland data indicates an 8% drop in high-street NHS dentists delivering care since lockdown, from 3,038 in March 2020 to 2,791 in September 2022.

Even this fall understates the full scale of losses in light of our survey. No attempt has been made to measure the Whole Time Equivalent NHS workforce, and a dentist doing one NHS check-up a year carries the same weight as an NHS full-timer. And it's very clear an exodus is in motion.

We've worked with MSPs across the political spectrum, and this new evidence has already drawn strong criticism from all opposition parties, who are joining us in calling for urgent action to tackle the crisis in NHS dentistry.

The continued financial uncertainty is impacting on morale, and we have called for a sustainable model to be put in place before October. We have continually warned that any return to the service's 'business as usual' model – low margin and high volume – will put dental practices under huge financial pressure and will likely lead to closures or movement to the private sector, with many left delivering some NHS care at a loss.

The SNP leadership election has resulted in deadlines to reform this broken system shift. The profession had anticipated the Scottish Government would reveal changes to the payment model on 1 April, that would be rolled out from October.

"NHS dentistry's survival requires rapid action, with meaningful reform and sustainable funding," said David McColl, Chair of the BDA's Scottish Dental Practice Committee, "The steps taken in the First Hundred days of the next First Minister will determine whether this service will have a future."