Number of dentists doing NHS work falls in nearly every health board

12 Apr 2024
Alex Cole Hamilton

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today accused the SNP Government of leaving NHS dentistry “to rot” after research by his party revealed that the number of dentists providing NHS services has fallen from pre-pandemic numbers across most health boards.

A freedom of information request submitted by Scottish Liberal Democrats to Public Health Scotland has now revealed that between 2019/20 and 2023/24:

  • The number of dentists performing NHS work fell from 3,407 to 3,240;
  • 11 health boards saw a reduction in the number of dentists carrying out NHS procedures;  
  • The biggest decreases were in Lothian (41 fewer dentists), Glasgow (36 fewer dentists) in Highland (31 fewer dentists) and in Fife (25 fewer dentists);
  • The only health boards not to see a decrease were NHS Ayrshire & Arran, Shetland and Western Isles.

These new figures follow on from  Willie Rennie MSP raising concerns about patients at a Glenrothes dental practice who were told that when the practice closes in April, their registrations will not be transferred over to a new practice.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

“A concerning number of dentists are no longer offering NHS services because of the low rates they receive for that work and the endless barriers and red tape thrown in their way by SNP ministers.

“For years, the SNP have left NHS dentistry to rot. Many people are now resorting to drastic options, from DIY dentistry with tools purchased on Amazon to travelling back to war-torn Ukraine for treatment.

“Toothcare, just like any other form of healthcare, should be universally accessible- it cannot just be for those who can afford to go private.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats are on the side of everyone queueing up for a dentist and tired of SNP neglect. That’s why my party has set out plans that would deliver quality, accessible dentistry in every community. Those plans would see ministers rewrite their failed NHS Recovery Plan, prioritise workforce planning and boost the number of dentists taking on NHS patients.”

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