Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Scottish government moves to expand free dental care

By Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International
June 23, 2021

EDINBURGH, UK: Currently, NHS dental care is free at the point of use for those under 18 throughout the UK. Part of the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) platform ahead of this past May’s Scottish parliamentary election was a promise to abolish all NHS dentistry charges and increase NHS funding by 20%. After its successful re-election, the SNP has now introduced legislature to make dental services free for individuals up to 25 years of age, a move that will benefit 600,000 young people, according to the government.

The measures were introduced to the Scottish parliament on 15 June and, subject to parliamentary approval, should be in place from September 2021. At the moment, NHS dental patients in Scotland are required to pay 80% of the cost of their treatment, unless they qualify for certain exemptions.

In a letter to Scottish NHS dental teams, Humza Yousaf, the cabinet secretary for health and social care, outlined the reasoning behind the government’s prioritisation of young people’s oral health.

He noted: “Our rationale is that the oral health of young people often suffers as they move out of the family home, away from the supervision of parents for the first time. I am also particularly mindful of the disproportionate economic impact of the pandemic on our young people.”

“It is my intention to get NHS dental services back to normal service as quickly as possible. Our commitment as a government is for patients to receive NHS dental care and treatment,” Yousaf added.

Back in April, the SNP’s announcement that it would eliminate NHS dentistry charges, if re-elected, was met with restrained enthusiasm by some sectors of the dental world.

“We are of course ready to work with the SNP on these pledges, which could fundamentally change the way dentistry is delivered in Scotland, but we need to see detail,” a spokesperson for the British Dental Association told Scottish Dental Magazine.

“We need assurances that any loss of patient charge revenue would not lead to a reduction in overall funding for our service,” the spokesperson added.

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