The 70th birthday of NHS Scotland has come and gone. £2 billion has been set aside for NHS Scotland, and we now have a new Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport in post to decide on how to invest it.
So we have
reached out to Jeane Freeman, to ensure the Scottish Government understands its duty to put that funding to work in NHS Scotland, and to fill in gaps in its own landmark Oral Health Improvement Plan (OHIP).
OHIP sets out big aspirations, but provides little detail on how to pay for them. The promise of extra scope for investment now offers a vital opportunity to secure the necessary resources required for implementation.
Meeting the needs of an ageing population and reducing oral health inequalities in Scotland are vital goals. However we are yet to see detail on plans, timescales or resources to achieve them, or indeed any tangible commitment to maintain the financial viability of high street practices during a period of profound change.
We know the introduction of an Oral Health Risk Assessment for adults to help improve prevention will take time to develop, pilot and implement. Ministers must now ensure that sufficient resources are available to dental practices to introduce these assessments.
Sadly, instead of needed investment a focus on 24 month recall intervals feels like a bid to spread a steady state budget too thinly.
Oral cancer rates in Scotland are the highest in the UK - incidence rates are more than 50% higher than in England. There are also stark inequalities within Scotland – for example, someone in Glasgow is almost 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer than someone in Grampian.
When oral cancer rates are surging - and early detection is key - we urge the Scottish Government to reconsider a proposal which could have serious consequences.
Likewise an approach to scale and polish treatments looks like a cost-cutting exercise. This procedure is an important part of encouraging good oral hygiene. Expansion of Childsmile to include older children is great news, as this will help to maintain the good habits learned through the programme. But again these pledges need to be paid for.
This profession deserves detail. We have commitment to adopt a proportionate approach to disciplinary procedures, including increased local resolution by NHS Boards. The Scottish Government will provide assistance with administrative tasks, but has given no indication of whether additional money will be made available for this. We need appropriate funding at local level.
We want to work closely with Jeane Freeman to shape how the OHIP is put into practice.
Prevention could reap huge dividends for Scottish patients and taxpayers. The Scottish Government needs to show it is prepared to make an effective investment in oral health.
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.