MSP calls for urgent action on dental care amid fears over cuts to NHS services

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Health chiefs have confirmed that four practices in the capital have switched to private treatment only, forcing thousands of people to shell out more money or find another practice.

Reports of long waits and problems getting checks and other appointments for NHS patients have sparked fresh fears of a collapse in access to routine services and a growing health emergency with the city’s children among the hardest hit.

Frustrated patients face waits of six months or more to be seen amid ongoing backlogs compounded by the impact of Covid restrictions.

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BDA warns of ‘exodus’ of NHS dentists leaving families with no options

Figures show that 83% of children are registered with an NHS dentist in Lothian – the lowest number of any health board area in Scotland. Ninety-two percent of adults are registered.

Lothians MSP Miles Briggs condemned the figures, saying more needed to be done as around 20,000 children and young people have no access to dental care.

The British Dental Association told the Evening News that Scottish Government policies are accelerating an “exodus” from the NHS, leaving more and more families without options.

A mum-of-two said: ‘My toddler had never been to a dentist as he was not registered before Covid. It was so stressful to find somewhere. I’ve been offered pay-as-you-go plans at my dentist, but I can’t afford to go private for the three of us.

“It’s really scary not being able to easily get help when your children need it and having to try for weeks to find a place and then wait a long time to be seen and shell out the money you have need for the bills with the rising cost of living.”

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A practice in the city informed shocked patients last month that they were stopping NHS treatment from October.

The Bruntsfield dental practice, which cares for more than 10,000 people, emailed patients saying they would be taken off the NHS list and would have to pay to stay with them.

Official data suggests that the total number of NHS street dentists in Scotland has fallen by more than 5% since the start of Covid, while 80% of dentists have expressed their intention to reduce their commitment to the NHS.

An Edinburgh woman said she was so fed up she was considering driving out of town for treatment.

The 27-year-old said: “I tried about five different dentists and finally got a response from one who said I would have to wait until October to get a check-up. C “is ridiculous. I’m so annoyed. I’m considering going to Glasgow to get an appointment. I haven’t had a check-up in so long so I really need to get one.

Lothians MSP Miles Briggs said access to dental care is a growing health emergency: “It is deeply worrying that so many families in Edinburgh are struggling to register with a dentist or get an appointment.

“It is totally unacceptable that NHS Lothian has the lowest number of children registered in a dental practice in Scotland.

“Up to 20,000 young people in Lothian are likely not getting the dental care they need. This is a growing public health emergency.

“Throughout the pandemic, dental practices have not received the necessary support from SNP ministers and now many are going private.

“The transition out of the pandemic has been very poorly managed, leaving people struggling to get a dental appointment.

“It has set us back years in dentistry across Scotland and there is more urgency to deal with this issue.”

Jenny Long, Director of Primary Care at NHS Lothian, said: “From June 2021 to May 2022, four practices transitioned from NHS Lothian to private practice across Lothian. Opt-outs come from practices converting to primarily provide private care.

“Patients who are not registered with a general dentist and need urgent dental treatment can access the emergency dental service by contacting Chalmers Dental Center on 0131 536 4800, Monday to Friday between 9am and 4.30pm. “

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