Scottish public health minister describes dental treatment waiting time as unacceptable
EDINBURGH, UK: Scotland’s Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Joe Fitzpatrick, has admitted that some dental patients are experiencing completely unacceptable waiting times for hospital treatment. New figures show that the number of patients waiting for longer than 12 weeks for treatment has risen dramatically over the past four years.
The data, which was released as a result of an information request from the British Dental Association (BDA), showed that NHS Grampian has five times as many patients waiting for longer than the 12-week target than it had had in 2015 and that NHS Highland has seen a tenfold increase in this number over the same period.
Scottish Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton, MSP, who raised this issue in the Scottish Parliament, said that patients can effectively expect to wait much longer and quoted figures which show a 14.7% drop in NHS dental staff in the last five years. In response, Fitzpatrick said, “I do accept that some of the waits that we know about—particularly some of the more challenging cases—are entirely unacceptable, particularly when you are talking about children who are often in pain.”
Commenting on the situation, BDA Scotland blamed consultant shortages as well as a failure of regular patient check-ups for the long waiting times being experienced by hospital dental patients. In a press release, the trade union pointed to statistics showing that the proportion of those registered with a dentist in Scotland who actually visit has fallen significantly over the last few years, from 76% in 2014 to below 70% in 2018.
Furthermore, BDA Scotland called on the Scottish government to ensure that the right investment and resources be put into dentistry in order for it to achieve the actions outlined in its Oral Health Improvement Plan, which was launched in early 2018. Of the 41 actions outlined in the plan, only two have been completed to date.