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Scottish Government asleep at the wheel on NHS dentistry

With the unanimous support of opposition parties, we have accused the Scottish Government of failing to take needed action to halt an exodus from NHS dentistry and restore access to millions.

In a debate in Holyrood today, Scottish Government MSPs voted against a motion on support for NHS dentistry, which was tabled by the Scottish Conservatives and backed by both Scottish Labour and Liberal Democrats.

Ministers have been planning to cut pandemic support from April. We have consistently warned that the plans, to end COVID support payments and return to a low margin/high volume model of care, would devastate dental services across the country.

David McColl, Chair of the British Dental Association's Scottish Dental Practice Committee said: "NHS dentistry in Scotland is facing crisis, but sadly Ministers seem asleep at the wheel. Opposition parties are all seeing the plain facts that Scottish Government plans could devastate services millions depend on and widen already unacceptable health inequalities."

Reflecting on the crisis, Mr McColl made clear: "Promises have been made to the voting public that simply can't be kept unless we see meaningful support and real reform as we head out of the pandemic."

NHS dentistry in Scotland is facing crisis, but sadly Ministers seem asleep at the wheel.

David McColl

Chair of the BDA's Scottish Dental Practice Committee

Morale in the profession is at an all-time low, with more than a third of dentists saying they intend to leave the profession in the next 12 months, and 80% planning to reduce their NHS commitment if the Government reverts to pre-pandemic arrangements. Failure to act risks sparking an exodus from the workforce which would mean families across Scotland losing access to NHS dentistry for good.

Over 3.5 million NHS dental appointments were lost in Scotland as a result of the pandemic. As infection prevention and control measures continue to limit the number of patients dentists can see, this unprecedented backlog continues to grow and will likely take years to clear.

We have warned the SNP's 2021 election pledge of free NHS dentistry for all will be unrealisable without meaningful support and real reform. It is pressing for a workable interim funding model, and long-term change to a system that prioritises prevention, is patient-centred and reflects modern dentistry.