The Scottish National Party has vowed to scrap NHS dentistry charges if it wins the Scottish Parliament election on May 6.
The SNP manifesto states, "We have made great strides in improving dentistry access, but if re-elected we will now improve access further by abolishing all NHS dentistry charges over the course of the parliament.
"We will start the rollout with care experienced people aged between 18 and 26. In removing NHS dental charges, we will engage with the British Dental Association, and others, to learn from the experience of the pandemic to help shape a reformed funding arrangement for NHS dentists so that they are supported for the future."
Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, said, "People in Scotland love and cherish the NHS. We love it for the care we receive but also for what it represents. An expression of our common humanity where everyone has the right to be treated equally regardless of individual means.
"In government, the SNP has demonstrated strong commitment to that core principle. It’s why we abolished prescription charges – taking away the upfront cost of medicines. But there is still one part of our NHS in which people are still asked to pay charges – sometimes hefty charges – for care and treatment. I am referring, of course, to NHS dentistry.
"It is 70 years ago this month that Nye Bevan, the founder of our NHS, resigned from government in protest at the introduction of NHS dental charges. The iniquities of these charges are still with us today. The choice of what treatment to receive – or indeed whether to receive any treatment at all – can depend on how much someone is willing or able to pay. That is harmful for patients who don’t access the treatment they need, but it also puts pressure on other parts of the NHS.
"In the year before the pandemic struck, almost 4,000 people attended A&E for dental health reasons. Many of these attendances – and a great deal of pain besides – would have been prevented with an earlier visit to the dentist. That pressure is likely to grow as we tackle the backlog of care caused by covid.
"So, I can confirm that, over the course of the next parliament, if the SNP is re-elected, we will abolish all NHS dentistry charges. This will ensure that cost is not a barrier to accessing healthcare, and it will complete an SNP mission to restore all of Scotland’s NHS to its founding principle – universal healthcare, provided free at the point of need."
David McColl, chair of the British Dental Association's Scottish Dental Practice Committee, commented, "Dentistry in Scotland risks becoming a casualty of this pandemic. We have called for wholesale change to the way care is delivered, and we will work with the next Scottish government to achieve that.
"These are big plans to bring down barriers to care and improve access, but they must go hand in hand with needed investment if services millions depend on are going to remain sustainable. Practices are now operating at a fraction of their former capacity. Dentists will need real and ongoing support if we’re ever going to meet historic levels of demand."