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Clunky IT sums up failure to invest in Scottish dentistry

Blog Author David McColl

Blog Date 03/10/2019

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General dental practice in Scotland is at a crossroads. There’s uncertainty over the Oral Health Improvement Plan (OHIP), and continued pressure on funding. 

So, we leapt at the chance to make our case to Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, as they held a much-needed inquiry into what the ‘next generation’ of primary care should look like

Members have told us that communication channels between NHS providers require nothing less than a revolution. Those clunky IT systems that simply don’t talk to each other. 

It reflects a wider failure to provide needed investment in primary care, which means both our practices and patients lose out. And that’s the message we pressed to assembled MSPs, IT integration is fundamental to everything that happens in health. And high-street dental practices aren’t alone in this.

Even within secondary care there are the systems that aren’t integrated, and can’t adequately measure the care colleagues are providing. 

It means GDPs simply can’t interface with secondary care effectively. Decrepit referral systems like SCI Gateway - which was simply a bolt-on to services many practices rely on - takes about 10 or 15 minutes to fill in any field. There’s nothing that pre-populates.

Time spent overseeing a creaking IT infrastructure is time taken away from delivering patient care. And we need access to electronic care summaries as we spend an inordinate amount of time with patients going through medical histories, getting updated medical histories. 

We weren’t alone in this call. GPs, dentists, optometrists, and pharmacists were all making the same case. 

We know dentists do not need access to all patient data, just what is relevant to deliver effective patient care. If any system is going to work properly between service providers it needs to be on some form of cloud-based platform, and it needs to be designed from the centre if we’re ever going to achieve consistency. 

A single system that’s upgraded and maintained throughout the whole of the NHS could transform delivery. But it needs to be government-led. If you leave it down to individual health boards they will inevitably do things differently, and again we will end up with systems not being able to communicate with each other. 

The hearing had a wide remit, and we made our case on issues from workforce planning to public health. 

The core theme remains, if you want primary care dentistry to have a future, real investment is needed.

If general dental practice in Scotland is to thrive, decent IT will certainly need to be a part of the solution. We can’t leave it to managers of health boards to cross their fingers and hope for the best.  

David McColl, Chair
Scottish Dental Practice Committee 


BDA Scotland

BDA Scotland supports, represents and promotes, the interests of all dentists working in Scotland. Working with elected committee members, we negotiate on behalf of the profession on terms and conditions, and pay and contracts. Join us