Scotland endures long waits for hospital dental treatment

Scotland endures long waits for hospital dental treatment

Figures publicised by the Scottish Liberal Democrats show that the number of people enduring “agonising waits” of more than 12 weeks for hospital dental treatment in Scotland has soared. Of the 5,064 people on the waiting list at the end of March, 1,139 (22 per cent) had been waiting longer than 12 weeks, according to Scottish parliament data.

The figure represented an almost tenfold increase in four years, up from just 120 people in March 2015. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the highest number of patients waiting more than 12 weeks, at 340, followed by Grampian, with 263, and Highland with 191.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, an MSP, said: “The Liberal Democrats were instrumental in introducing free dental checks in Scotland and in pressing for a new dental school to address the shortage of dentists, particularly in remote and rural areas of Scotland. As a result, the country has made solid progress in improving dental health in recent years. Unfortunately, these new figures show a rapid rise in the number of patients who are being left waiting in pain for serious treatment, in breach of the SNP’s treatment time guarantee.”

He added that with recent figures suggesting that hundreds of dentists had left the profession early, decisive action was necessary to ensure that patients were not left facing such long waits for treatment. The Lib Dems found that 221 out of the 239 dentists who retired between 2015 and 2018 did so before reaching their state pension age.

The Scottish government rebuffed the Lib Dem claims, saying: “We have taken decisive action to address waiting times, including for dental treatment, and our waiting times improvement plan will substantially and sustainably improve waiting times. The plan, backed with more than £850 million of funding, will help increase capacity and efficiency, and introduce new models of care which will help us to further reduce the number of cancellations.

“Statistics show that in 2018 there were more than five million people registered with an NHS dentist — almost double the number in 2007. Our oral health improvement plan — published last year — will continue to deliver improvements to dental services across the country.”

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