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Stone claims NHS dentistry in the Highlands is at breaking point and calls on Scottish Government to act

By Gordon Calder

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NHS dentistry in the Highlands is at breaking point with patients being forced to go private or having to resort to do-it-yourself remedies, according to local MP, Jamie Stone.

He hit out after a BBC investigation revealed that 94 per cent of dental practices in Highlands are not taking on new NHS patients.

Mr Stone, the Caithness, Sutherland and easter Ross MP called the figure "scandalous" and implored the Scottish Government to take action to resolve the situation.

Jamie Stone says NHS dentistry in Highlands is at breaking point. Picture: DGS
Jamie Stone says NHS dentistry in Highlands is at breaking point. Picture: DGS

The Liberal Democrat MP said Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf should visit dentistry practices in the far north to see for himself how bad the situation is.

Mr Stone also wants the Minister to meet with local people who have been forced to wait in agony for months due to a lack of NHS dentist appointments.

He said: "People in our area should know if they are in pain or face a health emergency that the NHS is there for them. Yet these scandalous figures prove NHS dentistry in the Highlands is at breaking point.

"Our NHS dental system is broken because the Scottish Government has failed to stump up the cash.

"People are being forced to spend hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, on private dental care with some even resorting to their own at-home dentistry. Compounding this is the sheer distance some people are having to travel to access care.

"I implore the Health Secretary to visit the Highlands, to meet with local dentists and patients to hear just how bad things are here.

"It is high time that the NHS dental contracts were reformed and plans brought forward to recruit more local NHS dentists, so no matter where you live you know you can get the NHS dental care you need."

Ron Gunn, chairman of the Caithness Health Action Team, urged the Scottish Government, NHS Highland and the dentists to get together to try and resolve the issue as patients in Caithness are suffering.

He said: "We have been contacted by a number of folk who can't get an NHS appointment to see a dentist but can get one if they go private. It seems we have a two-tier system. If you have the money you can get treated and that is unfair.

"The Scottish Government, NHS Highland and the dentists need to come to an arrangement regarding their contracts and work something out because patients are suffering at the end of the day. I would hope this can be sorted as soon as possible," he added.

An NHS Highland spokesman said: "Dental Practitioners continue to reduce the backlog of dental care built up over the pandemic, with a priority on emergency treatment and providing dental treatment for registered patients. However, the nationwide reduction in dental workforce and practices being unable to recruit to vacancies continues to be a challenge.

"Two General Dental Practices in the NHS Highland area have agreed to receive new patients seeking registration from NHSH Highland Dental Helplines. Also, dental practices may accept patients directly for NHS registration. It may be that patients have to join a practice waiting list for registration.

"NHS Highland continues to provide access to emergency dental care for unregistered patients both in-hours and out-of-hours and explore potential solutions, to improve access to NHS dental services."

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