Brexit means shortage of NHS dentists

Brexit means shortage of NHS dentists

Brexit is being blamed for a fall in the number of NHS dentists working in Scotland. Dentists there are reporting how the uncertainty created by the 2016 vote to leave the EU is leaving them struggling to fill vacancies. One in 10 of Scotland’s dentists are from the EU and fears are growing that many are turning their back on working here.

The number of registered NHS dentists in Scotland dropped between 2016 and 2017. The fall in dentists was the first drop in numbers for five years, and only the second drop in the last 18 years. A tightening of the rules on visas for non-EU dental workers is compounding recruitment problems, with rural areas of Scotland said to be suffering the most.

A spokesman for the BDA said: “Practices are experiencing increasing difficulties in recruiting dentists. That is particularly the case outside of the larger urban areas. We need to ensure that our requirement for dentists is matched by the available supply. That supply should come principally from our own dental schools, but in the shorter term, migration policy now and post-Brexit also needs to ensure appropriate availability of dentists.”

Aberdeenshire East SNP MSP Gillian Martin has written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd to call for contingency visa arrangements to be put in place to take into account Brexit’s impact. She said: “It is difficult to retain staff for job roles in rural areas as it is. Brexit is going to make it increasingly difficult to employ people from within the European Union and now the UK Government has made it more challenging to recruit people from outside of it. We are only beginning to see the impact of Brexit which is only going to continue to get worse and we will have a skills vacuum for the most vital of services.”

Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar, a former NHS dentist, added: “From speaking to dentists, including those who or own or run practices, there is real concern over this issue – both in rural Scotland and in urban areas. The potential of losing them, or at least struggling to replace them, is something we should all be concerned about.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Around one in 10 dentists across Scotland are from the EU and we are working closely with them to ensure appropriate action is taken to protect our workforce from the impact of Brexit. EU nationals play a vital role in the provision of our dental services so it is crucial that we are able to set a Scotland-specific policy on migration to avoid the harmful economic, social and cultural consequences falling migration could cause.

“In the last decade we have made improvements in the training, recruitment and retention of dentists and as a result we’ve seen an unprecedented increase in the numbers of dentists providing NHS dental services, up 33% under this government.”

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