Scottish minister voices concerns over reforms to the dental system

13 November 2023

Claire Baker, Fife MSP, has expressed unease about what the changes introduced to the Scottish dental model will mean for patients. The change is expected to see a fall in visits and an increase in patient fees.

In July, Scotland’s government revealed plans to change the payment structure of NHS dental care. The changes included the potential to increase fees and an additional £10m being made available to support laboratory-based treatment items, such as dentures.

These plans also enable dentists to determine how often patients need a checkup, ranging from six months to two years.

Speaking to Dunfermline Press, Claire said, “The SNP pledged to deliver free dental treatment for all, but now NHS patients are seeing charges increase and services restricted. And that is if you are fortunate enough to be able to register with an NHS dentist at all.

"Access to dentistry is a postcode lottery, patients are being pushed off registers on into private practice, and dentists continue to struggle to address the backlog from Covid.

“Instead of a shift to a patient-centred and prevention focused model called for by the dental industry, the Scottish Government is continuing with its ‘drill and fill’ model and tinkering around the edges.

"As a consequence, many patients will have less frequent dental checks but be faced with higher charges for treatment. The Scottish Government needs to listen to dentists and prevent NHS dental care from further deteriorating.”

Jenni Minto, the Scottish public health minister, said, “Our aim with this payment reform is to incentivise dentists to remain in the NHS, provide long-term sustainability to the sector, and improve access for patients.

"Replacing the existing fees with a new improved set will allow dentists to provide a full range of NHS care and treatment, while those unable to pay will continue to get help.

“All patients will continue to receive free NHS dental examinations, and I want to reassure those who are exempt from NHS dental charges – including children and young people under 26, and those on certain benefits – they will continue to receive free care and treatment. People on a low income are also eligible for support, details of which can be found on NHS Inform.”