As you will know only too well, the very existence of NHS dentistry in Scotland is on the line. I regularly hear from constituents who share their experiences of struggling to see a dentist, whilst too many people report that they cannot find a practice that is accepting new NHS patients.
This, of course, is not the fault of the dental profession. As you rightly point out, you and your colleagues have been working in a ‘broken system that is based on drilling and filling’. The Scottish Government has been warned time and time again of the exodus of disillusioned and under-valued professionals from the NHS dental workforce. This cannot be allowed to continue. Both patients and dentists deserve better – and as you say, ‘we can and must do better than this’.
The Scottish Government was right in eventually agreeing to extend the bridging payment to 31 October 2023. However, this is no more than a sticking plaster solution. Ministers must make good on their promise to transform NHS dentistry and announce a new funding settlement that protects the future of community dental care.
Scottish Labour are clear that NHS dentistry needs a comprehensive overhaul. We would like to see greater integration with the NHS, with options other than the small business model, including strengthening NHS community dentistry to improve access in deprived areas. The world-leading Childsmile programme was designed by Scottish Labour so we want to see it expanded to maximise the impact on inequalities.
The current funding model is causing dentists to leave the NHS in favour of private practice. Urgent change is therefore needed to avoid a two-tier system.
Please be assured that Scottish Labour’s Health team will continue to liaise with the British Dental Association and other relevant stakeholders as we develop our policy commitments around the future of NHS dentistry
I hope this information is useful.