Scottish Government must tread carefully in shake-up of dental services

BDA concern that changes to NHS care proposed in Oral Health Improvement Plan could undermine viability of practices

26 March, 2018 / infocus
 Scottish Dental  

The British Dental Association (BDA) has urged ministers to proceed with caution following publication of the Scottish Government’s Oral Health Improvement Plan (OHIP), which could lead to the biggest shake-up of NHS dental services in decades.

The BDA has expressed concern that changes to the range of care available on the NHS could undermine the viability of practices across Scotland.

It has accused the Scottish Government of spin, launching the OHIP off the back of statistics claiming ‘record-breaking’ numbers of registered patients.

The BDA quotes actual attendance at NHS dentists has “reached a record low”. It said the percentage of patients who saw a dentist within the previous two years has shown “a steady decline from around 98 per cent between September 2006 and March 2008, to 84.1 per cent in September 2010 and now 70.7 per cent 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 ‘record-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 added: “Many of our initiatives have been recognised within the strategy. We will continue working with Ministers and the Scottish Government to take forward sensible policies contained in the document and to deal with the opportunities and challenges facing the profession.”

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