The Scottish Government’s new Oral Health Improvement Plan sets out a new preventive system of care to assess patients based on risk, and address the link between deprivation and ill-health. It will see the introduction of personalised care plans which focus on lifestyle choices, for example diet, alcohol and smoking, and how these impact on health.
Among its recommendations, a new scheme is proposed to meet the needs of the ageing population, enabling suitably skilled practitioners to treat people cared for in their own homes, and a Community Challenge Fund of up to £500,000 in 2018/19 will allow organisations to bid for funding to work in deprived communities and support people to practise better oral health.
Health Secretary Shona Robison launched the plan following extensive consultation with health professionals and the public, and based on the latest clinical evidence. She said: “Record numbers of Scots have access to NHS dentists, and as a nation our oral health is improving. But poor oral health is entirely preventable and we need to ensure we do all we can to tackle it, and break the link between oral health and deprivation.
“The Oral Health Improvement Plan will support the profession to spend more time on what they do best – providing excellent care for the patients who need it most. We will continue to work closely with them as the recommendations are implemented. It will ensure people get the personalised care they need, when and where they need it. We will reach out beyond dental practices to support communities to find innovative ways to support people lead healthier lives – particularly in deprived areas or among older people.”
The BDA has urged ministers to proceed with caution and expressed concern that changes to the range of care available on the NHS could undermine the viability of practices across Scotland.
David Cross, Vice Chair of the BDA’s Scottish Council said: “This programme represents the biggest change to NHS dentistry in the last 50 years, but it will be impossible to deliver without new investment. Yes, reform is needed, but Ministers must tread carefully and avoid the unintended consequences that could easily destabilise the service.
“The Scottish Government is unwise to cover historically low attendance figures with claims of ‘recording breaking’ registration. The patients who need us most might be getting on the books, but they are not making it to the dentist’s chair. Our nation’s oral health challenges remain profound, and will not be solved by spin.
“Many of our initiatives have been recognised within the strategy. We will continue working with Minsters and the Scottish Government to take forward sensible policies contained in the document, and deal with the opportunities and challenges facing the profession.”