The British Dental Association Scotland has warned plans to return NHS practices to pre COVID models of work will devastate dental services across the country.
Cabinet Secretary Humza Yousaf has written today to every NHS dental team in Scotland, indicating that all emergency support will be withdrawn by 1 April 2022. Since the first lockdown NHS practices have operated under a COVID support package, reflecting pandemic pressures and tight restrictions that continue to limit capacity across the service.
A return to delivering a low margin/high volume model of care is, BDA Scotland contends, simply unsustainable under current conditions. While some restrictions may ease in the coming months, there are no indications the service is likely to return to anything resembling ‘business as usual’.
With a growing number of staff facing abuse from frustrated patients unable to secure appointments, the BDA has warned the move will only raise patient expectations, while pushing NHS colleagues into the private sector or out of dentistry altogether.
Yousaf has signalled minor changes to the payment system for dentists that will take effect from 1 February 2022, largely covering the treatment of children. While welcome, these reforms will have a negligible impact on capacity within the service and will not ease the pressure on practice finances once the COVID support payments are withdrawn.
The SNP committed to delivering free NHS care for all in Scotland in the recent election. The BDA has stressed this approach runs counter to that vision, and that real focus and energy must be applied to developing a new, sustainable model for delivering care.
David McColl, Chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee said:
“The Scottish Government seems set to pull the rug out from under every dedicated NHS dentist.
“If Ministers had an objective to decimate NHS dentistry, this approach would offer a great starting point. To signal the return of a ‘business as usual’ model when the country is still in the grip of a pandemic is utterly reckless. The net result will be to push colleagues out of the NHS and to leave this profession altogether.
“Ministers put NHS dentistry front and centre in their pitch for government. To deliver on their promises we need real commitment to find a new and better way for delivering for the patients that need us.”