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No end in sight for dental pain

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By Fiona Reid
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No end in sight for dental pain

DENTAL provision problems in the region are here to stay for ‘some time’, health bosses have admitted.

The issue was once again discussed at NHS Dumfries and Galloway’s health board on Monday.

And in a briefing for that meeting, chief executive Jeff Ace said: “The provision of NHS dental services across NHS Dumfries and Galloway continues to present significant challenges and it is anticipated that the situation may not change for some time.

“Over the last two years several dental practices across the region have reduced their provision of NHS dental services. In addition, four dental practices have closed predominantly as a result of being unable to recruit dentists despite proactive attempts at recruitment. This has resulted in around 20,000 patients being unable to find alternative NHS registration for dental care.

“It is expected that the number of unregistered NHS patients will continue to increase as board officers are in discussion with a number of practices who may similarly reduce their provision of NHS general dental services.”

The regional dental task force continues to monitor the progress of an agreed action plan and work is also ongoing with local dental teams, NHS Education for Scotland, General Dental Council representatives and the Scottish Government to try to identify solutions.

Mr Ace added: “A significant amount of work has been, and continues to be, undertaken to support the provision of NHS dental services across the region. However, there is no easy answer to the challenges we face as they are primarily due to a dental workforce shortage which exists across the UK.”

The situation has been identified as a priority for the local NHS and going into 2024 they plan to develop a business case for a dental access centre at the Gardenhill Health Centre in Castle Douglas.

There will also be a pilot scheme to secure provision of emergency care for unregistered patients,

Meanwhile, the area clinical forum has also been discussing the problem and sent a report for Monday’s meeting.

They revealed that the Public Dental Service (PDS) continue to be overwhelmed with unregistered emergency patients with a lot of calls to the helpline during the week.

In addition, a weekend service, which covers both registered and un-registered emergency patients, continues to be busy and they’ve seen a rise in acute problems, like facial swellings that need antibiotics.

They note that there has been an increase from five to nine dental students this year, but recruitment to six training posts proved quite challenging despite monies being offered to work locally.

A local oral health website has been launched with advice on oral cancer checks, tooth-brushing, diet, how to deal with dental emergencies, trauma etc.

It was also stressed that like in Dumfries and Galloway, no dental practices in the Borders or Cumbria are registering new NHS patients.

The forum said: “It has been recognised that there isn’t a local solution to the dental problem it has to be driven nationally.

“The dental reform was due in 2020 but due to covid was pushed back to April this year but has been delayed until November this year, this has an impact on dental business models resulting in the practices going private.”

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