Stenhousemuir dentist welcomes Scottish Government's £5m award but raises question over future funding
A Stenhousemuir dentist has welcomed a Scottish Government plan to provide the industry with a £5 million boost – but questioned how the profession will be funded in the future.
The money will allow NHS dental practices to see more patients in the wake of the pandemic by enabling surgeries to buy, renew or upgrade ventilation equipment, reducing the time dentists must wait between appointments.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf also pledged the government will continue to fund PPE for the sector, increasing it by up to 50 per cent from July.
Dental services were largely halted when coronavirus hit Scotland and many practices are still operating at a reduced level.
Mr Yousaf said: “The remobilisation of the NHS is one of our number one priorities and the Scottish Government remains committed to ensuring that NHS dental services emerge from this pandemic well-placed to care for the oral health of the population.
“This new funding is an important step in ensuring the continued remobilisation of NHS dental services and to ensure more patients can be seen safely.”
While the cash injection will support practices for now, those within the profession harbour concerns over Holyrood’s overall dentistry funding model and the possibility of legislative changes.
Dr Gillian Lennox, of Forth Valley Smile Design, is pleased dentists are being backed financially, but, called for more light to be shed on the government’s long-term plans.
She said: “It’s very much a step in the right direction because ventilation is one of the big issues stopping us from seeing more patients.
“What it means is funds are available so some practices can do aerosol generating procedures.
“With my own surgery, I’m 25 minutes downtime after I’ve done a drilling procedure. The room needs to be deep cleaned and that normally takes about 15 or 20 minutes so, effectively, we have 45 minutes’ downtime.
“My practice has four surgeries and we’ve two of us working on one day so we can work between surgeries.
“The big unknown is nobody has come out to say, ‘this is the system you need or the requirements you need’.
“My building was fine because five of the seven rooms had windows and that counts as ventilation. We’ve had fans put in so we can drill in all our rooms.
“Some premises don’t have windows and in some older buildings it's difficult to get external ventilation in. The fact there’s money is great but nobody has said, ‘This is the absolute spec you need and this is what you need to do’.
“We still don’t know if any regulations will come in.”
Dr Lennox continued: “The big issue is what funding is going to be available for dentistry going forward.
“The SNP didn’t consult with government departments about making dentistry free. They didn’t talk to dentists or the health department.
“We’ve no idea what our funding is going to be going forward. That’s creating an awful lot of worry within the profession.
“If you have a dental problem, your dentist will see you. Unfortunately, because every practice is working at reduced capacity, routine things like examinations are a very low priority.
“It just requires people being patient and accepting it’s not the dentists’ fault. We’re doing everything we can but the priority has to be those who have acute dental needs.”