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Growing inequality between private practice and NHS dentists in Scotland?


  Posted by: The Probe      14th July 2020

NHS dentists in Scotland have expressed concerns over a growing inequality between patients able to afford treatment from private practices and those who rely upon NHS services in the country. NHS practices are not currently able to provide the full range of treatments, with the widespread belief being that this is because of the cost of PPE.

Now, according to The Scotsman, NHS dentists in Scotland have written to the government, asking why they are unable to provide the full service that their private practice counterparts, which have been able to afford fully fitted face masks, are. The Scottish government’s Chief Dental Officer, Tom Ferris, has told NHS dentists, however, that they will only be given standard PPE, ruling out dental treatments that involve drilling or use compressed air.

“There is a difference between dental provision in different places but the CDO has a very clear route map back to full dental care,” commented Scotland’s National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch. “Emergency dental care and drilling has been available on the NHS in 70 or so Urgent Care Centres throughout the country. Tom, the CDO, is working quickly to move to the next step of the route map which would allow aerosol generating procedures to be done in the thousands of practices. I wrote with Tom to the private dental practices and asked them very clearly to follow the same route map as the NHS dentists. We have slightly less control over what they do because of the nature of contracts, but it was clear advice to follow the same as the NHS. Care has been available and it’s coming back to full dental care.”

Members of the public are still apprehensive about returning to the dentist following the Coronavirus outbreak. One Scottish dentist has said that they have only been visited by a few patients each day, and that even then, it is only when the patient is “in complete agony, which is leading to extractions rather than just fillings”.

“Dentistry isn’t putting anyone at risk, they’re well trained at infection prevention and control and I know they’ll all have adequate PPE so I don’t think patients are at risk,” asserted Leitch. “Tom is very keen to get NHS practices back as soon as we can with the full gamut of care. We’re making choices for a broad range of dentists across the nation.”

Yet, Dr Mohammed Samad, Chair of the Scottish Dental Practice Owners Group, claims that Scottish dentists are receiving conflicting advice from the government and individual health boards. “Why can NHS hubs be provided with adequate PPE to do AGPs but AGPs cannot be completed in general practice under the NHS? Is there a belief that dentists in practice are not as skilled or trained as those in hubs or is it the PPE supply?” he asked.

The Scottish government, meanwhile, has said: “There is no two-tiered system of dental health care in Scotland. NHS patients are able to receive care and treatment including aerosol-generating procedures through one of the 71 urgent dental care centres in Scotland. As part of phase three the Chief Dental Officer has commissioned an expert review of aerosol-generating procedures and will be writing to the profession shortly on how they might be introduced safely.”

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