NHS Grampian blame lack of graduates and decline in EU staff for dentist shortage

NHS GRAMPIAN have written to local councillors detailing their plans to resolve Moray’s dentist gap.

NHS Grampian have taken action to address Moray’s Dentist shortage, after 3,000 patients were de-registered from Elgin’s Bishopmill Dental Practice.

In the letter, sent to Councillors Sandy Keith and Jérémie Fernandes, NHS Grampian’s Chief Executive has claimed that a lack of new dental graduates and a decline in EU staff are the reasons for Moray’s dentist shortfall.

In April, Elgin’s Bishopmill Dental Centre informed more than 3000 patients that they would be removed from the practice due to a staffing problems, prompting the two concerned councillors to write to the health board.

In the letter NHS Grampian’s Chief Executive, Professor Caroline Hiscox said: “The dental profession has, in common with every part of the health service, had a very difficult two years. COVID-19 restrictions meant the number of patients they could see was greatly reduced.

“Out of the three dental schools providing undergraduate dental education in Scotland, only Aberdeen saw any graduations last year, leading to a significant reduction in the number of new dentists coming into the workforce. There has also been a decline in the number of EU dentists seeking to work in the NHS. None of these issues are unique to Grampian; they are being experienced across the country.

“As a result of this some practices have been having difficulties recruiting to staffing vacancies and Bishopmill Dental Practice is one such practice. This has had an adverse impact on their ability to provide dental care for their registered patients. The practice has decided to reduce their NHS commitment by deregistering some of their NHS patients. As independent contractors to the NHS, they have the freedom to do this, and practices can take the decisions they feel are right for their business.

In the immediate term, anyone looking to newly register with an NHS dentist is given the contact details of all practices currently accepting NHS patients. Unfortunately for Moray residents, no practices in the area are open to NHS registrations, though they are free to register with dentists in Aberdeen City or Aberdeenshire if they wish.”

The letter also sets out the actions NHS Grampian have taken to remedy the situation.

This includes providing a recruitment and retention allowance for new dentists, expanding The Scottish Dental Access Initiative to Moray to encourage the establishment of new NHS dental practices in the area and providing existing dentists with more funding for better PPE equipment and new clinical tools so that Moray’s dentists can see more patients each day.

Commenting on the letter Elgin City North’s SNP Councillor Jérémie Fernandes said: “I welcome the Scottish Government’s investment to increase capacity in dental practices, and I hope this funding will attract dentists to Moray.

“It is worrying however that the number of EU dentists applying to work for our NHS is declining. There is no doubt this is the result of Brexit and the unnecessary obstacles EU citizens have to face in order to work the UK. This is another illustration of the damage Brexit is causing to our health services, and of the disruption it brings to our daily lives.

“This issue is impacting on many people, especially as dental treatments were stopped for the most of 2 years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is particularly worrying for parents whose children have been de-registered.

“It is good to see that NHS Grampian is treating the lack of NHS dental practitioners as a priority and I hope that we can find a solution for the Bishopmill Dental Practice soon.”

However Labour Councillor for Elgin City North, Sandy Keith was less impressed by the Chief Executive’s letter.

Commenting on the reply, Councillor Keith said: “I am disappointed with the information contained in the response. This is not good news for people looking for NHS dental care.

“To be told that they can register in Aberdeen for such care is not a solution. The Scottish government has had 15 years to get on top of this issue and they have failed.

“The lack of NHS dental care in Elgin and Moray in general was an issue when I stepped down from the Council in 2007. To find that in 15 years nothing has really changed is appalling.

“The service is clearly inadequate and the Health Secretary needs to get a grip.”

READ MORE: Bishopmill Dental Centre owners pledge to fill Moray’s dentist gap

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