Patients are travelling to India for dental care, says Scottish minister

20 February 2024

Willie Rennie, a Scottish Liberal Democrat, accused the SNP Government of “excruciating neglect” on February 20, 2024. He revealed that Scottish patients are having to travel to India for dental care and performing "DIY dentistry" with tools purchased from Amazon.

After being approached by constituents with concerns about local dental services, Willie called for others to contact him to describe their experiences of NHS dentistry in Scotland, with more than 300 getting in touch within days.

One respondent said that after being on a waiting list for an NHS dentist for four years, they resorted to, “‘DIY dentistry’ with dental tools purchased on Amazon to remove dental calculus (I am actually not joking.)”

Various respondents referenced having to travel abroad due to an absence of NHS dentists. One stated that they now see a dentist in Goa, India, explaining that “the irony of this is the dentist we use trained and qualified at Dundee Dental Hospital.” Another said that their dental practice for over 25 years has stopped providing NHS services, meaning that they now go to Turkey to receive check-ups and treatments.

Several respondents pointed to the expensive cost of treatment. One stated that after registering as private, they spent almost £400 on x-rays, two fillings and cleanings. They explained that this “left me short for food, which meant that I skipped meals so that my son could eat.”

On February 21, Scottish Liberal Democrats lead a debate in the Scottish Parliament noting the Scottish Government’s failure to repair the NHS dentistry crisis in Scotland.

The party will raise concerns around the number of children and adults who have not seen a dentist in years and warnings that current plans will do nothing to prevent an exodus of NHS dentists. The party will call on the Scottish Government to prioritise workforce planning and boost the number of dentists taking on NHS patients.

Willie said, “These devastating stories expose the SNP’s excruciating neglect of NHS dentistry. No matter how much pain you are in, seeing a dentist in Scotland is harder than ever before.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for toothcare to be universally accessible, just like any kind of healthcare. We were the party that was instrumental in bringing forward free dental checks in Scotland and establishing a new dental school to address workforce shortages.  

“But this SNP-Green Government is unpicking all that good work. Last year, they blocked our common-sense proposals which would have boosted access to dentistry for everyone.

“If the SNP keep refusing to listen, NHS dentistry could vanish from Scotland.

“This time, I sincerely hope that the government does the right thing and backs our motion, which would see ministers rewrite their failed NHS Recovery Plan to prioritise workforce planning and boost the number of dentists taking on NHS patients. That is how we will enable everyone to be seen and guarantee comprehensive treatment at the point of need in every community.”

Charlotte Waite, director of British Dental Association Scotland said, “The crisis in this service has seen desperate patients take matters into their own hands, or head overseas for care that should be available in their own communities.

“The Scottish Government unveiled some reforms back in November. Time will tell if it’s enough to turn the tide, so those who want and need NHS care can secure it.”