The British Dental Association has urged ministers to proceed with caution following publication of the Scottish Government’s Oral Health Improvement Plan, which could lead to the biggest shakeup of NHS dental services in decades.
The Association has expressed concern that changes to the range of care available on the NHS could undermine the viability of practices across Scotland.
Dentists’ leaders have accused the Scottish Government of spin, launching the Plan off the back of statistics claiming ‘record breaking’ numbers of registered patients.
Actual attendance at NHS dentists has reached a record low. The percentage of patients who saw a dentist within the previous two years has shown a steady decline from around 98% between September 2006 and March 2008, to 84.1% in September 2010 and now 70.7% in September 2017, the lowest reported rate.
David Cross, Vice Chair of the BDA’s Scottish Council said:
“This programme represents the biggest change to NHS dentistry in the last 50 years, but it will be impossible to deliver without new investment. Yes, reform is needed, but Ministers must tread carefully and avoid the unintended consequences that could easily destabilise the service.
“The Scottish Government is unwise to cover historically low attendance figures with claims of ‘recording breaking’ registration. The patients who need us most might be getting on the books, but they are not making it to the dentist’s chair. Our nation’s oral health challenges remain profound, and will not be solved by spin.”
BDA Scotland has welcomed recognition within the document for a roll out of Childsmile for all child groups, provision of funding for occupational health services, the implementation of consistent pathways for oral cancer across Scotland, addressing the care of the elderly in both care homes and in their own homes and the provision of local resolution rather than sending cases to the GDC initially.
A number of issues that were of concern to BDA Scotland have been removed by Scottish Government from the document. Orthodontic services will not be locally commissioned, and there will not be a minimum number of hours of clinical care required by NHS practitioners.
David Cross added:
“Many of our initiatives have been recognised within the strategy. We will continue working with Minsters and the Scottish Government to take forward sensible policies contained in the document, and deal with the opportunities and challenges facing the profession.”