Uist dentistry decision simply must be called in

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, says enough is enough and that the decision to close local dental surgeries in Uist in favour of a centralised hub simply must be stopped.

The MSP has been raising objections to the proposal for three years.  She was advised in December 2017 that the Western Isles Integration Joint Board (IJB) had stated that the decision would be communicated to the Scottish Health Council (SHC) which would determine whether the proposed arrangements would constitute ‘major service change’ and, if the SHC did consider the new model for dental services ‘major service change’, then the case would be referred to Scottish Ministers.  The MSP was later advised however that the SHC has no formal role in processes led by integration authorities.

Mrs Grant asked the First Minister during First Minister’s Questions on 7 December 2017 if she would impose a moratorium on the IJB decision until the regulation surrounding ‘major service change’ was checked.  The First Minister said no.

The MSP then sent a further letter to the then Health Secretary, Shona Robison, on 9 January 2018 asking specifically for clarification from her as to whether a decision made by an IJB can be called in for scrutiny whether it is deemed to be major service or not.  Shona Robison replied that the Scottish Government was satisfied that robust arrangements for public engagements are in place for integration authorities.

Rhoda Grant said “The First Minister, the previous Health Secretary, Shona Robison, and now the present Minister for Public Health, Joe FitzPatrick, have all hidden behind muddied legislation to avoid doing anything to right this wrong.  However, given that the final decision to close the local practices has been taken jointly by NHS Western Isles and the Comhairle, I am assuming that this decision can at last be called in for proper scrutiny.

Mrs Grant continued “Dental infections if left untreated can lead to systemic spread of infection and we simply cannot make access to dentists difficult.  We cannot ask people to travel a 60 mile round trip to see a dentist.

“I have also asked questions of the IJB on how the outreach service is going to be provided and who will receive this service, if consideration has been given to re-visiting the participatory budgeting process which implemented the current bus services in 2017, are travel expenses going to be paid for patients who have to travel to Benbecula and is the proposal going to be island proofed?  The response I got was that these questions will be addressed as part of the delivery plan which is in development and they would revert to me at that point.” said Mrs Grant.

“That says to me that this proposal is totally flawed with no answers to these very pertinent questions which people the length and breadth of Uist are asking.  Enough is enough – this decision simply has to be called in and I have asked the Scottish Health Council and the Scottish Government to do this.”