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North-east faces exodus of dentists amid fears new payment scheme doesn’t go far enough to prevent practice closures

By David Porter

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MSP Tess White this week warned First Minister Humza Yousaf that the north-east faces an exodus of dentists from the NHS amid fears a new payment scheme doesn’t go far enough to safeguard the future of practices.

At First Minister’s Questions, Ms White said surgeries across the region now face going out of business if they don’t go private due to the SNP Government’s new payment scheme which has still left dentists out of pocket as a result of rising staffing and materials costs.

Ms White, the Scottish Conservative shadow public health minister, referenced concerns from Oldmeldrum dental practice in Aberdeenshire which has told patients it intends to go fully private for adult patients in a bid to keep staff and “maintain quality equipment”.

Laws Dental in Carnoustie will also stop serving NHS patients after more than 20 years due to “significant” financial losses from NHS treatment.

The new scheme, which came into force on November 1, has raised the fees dentists are paid for carrying out NHS treatment. But the new rules mean that general dental check-ups can take place less frequently, with recalls moving from six months to 12 months.

The British Dental Association said the Scottish Government’s new scheme was a continuation of a “discredited low margin/high volume model that has proved incompatible with work post-pandemic”.

In her question, Ms White asked Humza Yousaf: “First Minister, Oldmeldrum Dental Practice and Laws Dental in Carnoustie have told patients they have no choice but to ditch NHS treatment because of increasing costs and the recent changes enacted by this SNP-Green Government.

“Far from protecting dental treatment for NHS patients, we’re seeing an exodus of dentists from the NHS because of this government’s actions.

“Will the First Minister commit to finding a better working structure for dentistry to ensure its long-term sustainability?”

In his response, Mr Yousaf said: “Tess White does raise important points.

“On the back of the pandemic there have been and continues to be challenges for our dental sector right across Scotland and right across the UK and I'll ensure the health secretary writes in detail to Tess White about what we're doing to support NHS dentistry in Scotland.

Tess White later said: “Patients and staff are paying the price for SNP ministers failing to invest in NHS dental services, resulting in the prospect of surgeries closing down.

“The new Scottish Government payment scheme doesn’t go far enough and practices are facing the stark decision of going fully private or risking going out of business.

“Humza Yousaf’s failure to agree a sufficient funding model with dentists to preserve NHS provision has been hugely damaging, especially for patients in rural areas such as Aberdeenshire.

“The industry is on a cliff-edge following the devastating effects of the pandemic and I urge the Scottish Government to rethink its plans to ensure more dentists stay within the NHS.”

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