Scotland: NHS dentistry at risk if support is withdrawn
3 November 2021
Our members are clear the return to a ‘business as usual model’ risks pushing practices across Scotland to the brink while sparking an exodus from NHS dentistry.
We received an unprecedented response to our recent survey, with 80% of respondents stating they are likely to reduce their NHS commitment should Scottish Government plans be taken forward.
Over a third (38%) indicate they are considering changing career or seeking early retirement in the next 12 months. 15% say they are likely to move to practising outside of Scotland, and one in 10 estimate their practice is likely to cease operations if emergency support is taken away.
Following the news from Cabinet Secretary Humza Yousaf last October - that all emergency funding for NHS dentistry will be withdrawn by 1 April 2022 – dentists have underlined the existential threat this policy poses to the future of the service.
Limited capital funding for ventilation costs has been offered, but many dentists have told us they simply couldn’t sign up if it meant committing long term to a low margin, high volume NHS model that is now unsustainable.
Practices are still grappling with an unprecedented backlog, with recent data from Public Health Scotland indicating that the number of treatments delivered in the year to March 2021 was less than 25% of those delivered in the previous 12-month period, corresponding to over 3.5 million appointments lost due to the pandemic. In our survey, half report they are currently still operating at less than 50% of pre-COVID capacity.
“We doubt Humza Yousaf wants to be remembered as the man who killed NHS dentistry in Scotland” says Scottish Dental Practice Committee Chair David McColl.
“Without a willingness to reflect on choices made in recent weeks that risks being his legacy.”
MSPs are preparing to hold the Scottish Government to account. Ministers have a responsibility to offer an interim funding package to continue to support dentists and their teams as we work through the backlog, and to prioritise the development of a new and sustainable model for delivering care.
Next week we will be giving oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s COVID-19 Recovery Committee. Armed with this evidence we will keep making the case for real support for our members, and the millions they treat.