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Warning over NHS dental challenges

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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Warning over NHS dental challenges

CHALLENGES around access to NHS dentistry services in Dumfries and Galloway are likely to increase before they get better, say health bosses.

As highlighted by a BBC study, the number of practices across the country taking on new patients under NHS contracts has significantly reduced.

And head of primary care services locally Linda Bunney said: “This situation is reflected very acutely within Dumfries and Galloway, and unfortunately this is likely to become even more of a problem in the short term.

“Dental practices are stating that they cannot take on new NHS patients due to lack of capacity within their business.

“And as dentists retire or leave, an increasing number of practices are being forced to de-register existing NHS patients. This means that those people then need to find alternative provision of dental care, and this becomes increasingly difficult.

“It’s especially concerning at a time when many people have not seen a dentist for some time due to the effects of the pandemic, and when they might be at a point where they require review and treatment.”

She said the fundamental issue is a shortage of dentists, adding: “We continue to work with dental practices to support all their efforts to attract dentists to take up opportunities within Dumfries and Galloway.

“We do have to be very honest and say there is no immediate, easy means to address a situation being experienced not just in Dumfries and Galloway but nationally, and that it is likely to worsen before it gets better.”

Meanwhile, Colin Smyth MSP says he has ‘serious concerns’ about the future of NHS dentistry in the region, adding: “The lack of dentists is a serious problem across the whole country. We need urgent action and I will continue to press the Scottish Government on this very important issue.”

* Anyone requiring emergency dental care should contact the dental helpline on 0845 602 6417.

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