Dental backlog continues to grow

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Antony Visocchi, dental director of NHS Shetland.

A SIGNIFICANT backlog of people awaiting dental treatment “continues to grow” with the local service still unable to work at the level it could before the Covid-19 pandemic.

NHS Shetland dental director Antony Visocchi, who was appointed in the summer of 2020, said dentists were now able to carry out all treatment under pre-pandemic guidance.

But infection control measures and physical distancing, along with the impact of self-isolation on the workforce, mean the service has still not been able to fully catch up. .

Dental services were under pressure long before the pandemic, with many patients sitting on waiting lists for years and unable to receive non-emergency care.

A nationwide difficulty in attracting people into the profession is further amplified by difficulties in attracting qualified professionals to the islands.

Visocchi said Shetland News all registered patients “should be offered all available treatments”, but “those who can access this care will generally be in the highest priority groups”.

Asked to quantify the scale of the work the dental service faces to catch up, he said it’s “not something I’m able to give numbers on, it’s kind of impossible to answer. the current time”.

“There is a significant backlog of treatment requirements since Covid started,” Visocchi said.

“It continues to grow due to the fact that we are not able to work at pre-Covid levels.

“We are working as hard as we can to see all the patients who are in the highest priority groups. I want to personally thank all the teams who are working beyond expectations to ensure they can see as many patients as possible. »

He added that the health board was in talks with the Scottish government over the need for more funding ‘to increase the number of dentists and facilities’, as a campaign to promote Shetland is underway to attract dentists to the islands.

“However, nationally, there is a widespread and well-recognized labor issue that affects the entire profession,” Visocchi said.

“This is discussed regularly with other health boards and the Chief Dental Officer.”

He stressed that no one in need of emergency treatment was on a waiting list, stressing that all patients – both those registered with the NHS and visitors to Shetland – will “still be seen in the event of a emergency by NHS Shetland”.

Visocchi added that the health board currently has 7.5 full-time equivalent dentists, which is “almost at pre-Covid levels.”

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