The British Dental Association (BDA) Scotland has greeted the unanimous support of opposition parties, whilst accusing the Scottish government of failing to take needed action to halt an exodus from NHS dentistry and restore access to millions.
In a recent debate in Holyrood, Scottish government MSPs voted against a motion on support for NHS dentistry tabled by the Scottish Conservatives and backed by both Scottish Labour and Liberal Democrats. Ministers have been planning to cut pandemic support from April. Whilst the government has recently indicated that there will be no "cliff edge", the BDA has consistently warned that the plans to end covid support payments and return to a low margin/high volume model of care would devastate dental services across the country.
Morale in the profession is at an all-time low, with more than a third of dentists saying they intend to leave the profession in the next 12 months, and 80 per cent planning to reduce their NHS commitment if the government reverts to pre-pandemic arrangements. Failure to act risks sparking an exodus from the workforce which would mean families across Scotland losing access to NHS dentistry for good.
Over 3.5 million NHS dental appointments were lost in Scotland as a result of the pandemic. As infection prevention and control measures continue to limit the number of patients dentists can see, this unprecedented backlog continues to grow and will likely take years to clear.
The BDA has warned the SNP's 2021 election pledge of free NHS dentistry for all will be unrealisable without meaningful support and real reform. It is pressing for a workable interim funding model, and long-term change to a system that prioritises prevention, is patient-centred and reflects modern dentistry.
David McColl, chair of the BDA’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said, "NHS dentistry in Scotland is facing crisis, but sadly ministers seem asleep at the wheel.
"Opposition parties are all seeing the plain facts that Scottish government plans could devastate services millions depend on and widen already unacceptable health inequalities.
"Promises have been made to the voting public that simply can't be kept unless we see meaningful support and real reform as we head out of the pandemic."