Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Lengthy waiting times for dental patients in Scotland draw criticism

By Dental Tribune UK
October 10, 2019

STIRLING, Scotland: Freedom of information requests by the Scottish Liberal Democrats have highlighted the extremely long waiting times for oral surgery that some patients have had to endure. The British Dental Association (BDA) has responded by calling on the Scottish government to “stop treating dentistry as an optional extra”.

Statistics obtained via the requests revealed waiting times of more than 120 weeks for inpatient oral and maxillofacial treatment, a length far beyond the 12-week target for surgery that the Scottish government aims for. One particular patient in the NHS Grampian area was found to have waited 243 weeks for a single outpatient procedure.

In a press release, the BDA pointed to huge problems filling consultant vacancies and continued underfunding of both primary and secondary dental services as key factors driving waiting times. According to the trade union, hospitals are facing an increasing number of referrals for tooth extractions, which adds to surgical waiting times. This is due to the lack of support for senior clinicians in high-street practice to supervise and train younger and less experienced dentists.

Dental Tribune UK and Ireland has previously reported on the National Dental Inspection Programme 2018 report from NHS Scotland, which investigated the existing oral health inequalities among children in Scotland. The average number of decayed, missing or filled primary teeth for children in the least deprived areas was 0.45 per child, compared with 1.92 for those from the poorest places.

Dr David McColl, Chair of the BDA’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said: “Patients shouldn’t be waiting eons for life-changing surgery. These procedures can help restore both functionality and appearance to a patient’s teeth and mouth after cancer or serious injuries.”

“Years of under-investment and failure to support high-street practice are heaping huge pressures on our hospitals. Ministers can’t go on treating dentistry as an optional extra in Scotland’s health service,” McColl continued.

In response to the findings, a Scottish government spokesperson told the BBC: “We have taken decisive action to address the issue. Our waiting times improvement plan will substantially and sustainably improve waiting times.”

“We will continue to work with boards to ensure this additional funding delivers the substantial and sustainable improvements needed,” added the spokesperson.

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