McArthur seeks assurances over dentistry payment reform

10 May 2023

Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has urged the Scottish Government to ensure dentists are provided with detailed information on future funding arrangements as soon as possible and well ahead of the deadline for reforms being introduced in November this year.

The call came after British Dental Association research suggested that 83% of Scottish dentists will be reducing their hours worked for the NHS this year.

The Government’s reform to the process by which dentists are paid for their NHS work was supposed to be introduced by April, when current ‘bridging payments’ were originally due to run out. The deadline has been extended to November after agreement could not be reached and warnings from the British Dental Association that a lack of significant reform could “push practices to bankruptcy or into the private sector”.

During Portfolio Questions in parliament today, Mr McArthur sought assurances from the Health Minister Jenni Minto that there would be no further delay and that dentists would have early sight of the detail of any future proposals. Orkney’s MSP also highlighted the particular fragility of services in the islands, where there is a single NHS practice.

Speaking afterwards, Mr McArthur said

“The current system of NHS dentistry in Scotland is in serious need of reform if it’s to become sustainable. There are particular issues in the islands in terms of recruitment and retention, but in all honesty the entire picture across the country, as the BDA has made clear, is exceptionally worrying.

“Dentists have repeatedly warned that the exodus of practitioners from NHS dentistry in Scotland will only intensify if reforms to funding arrangements are not put in place later this year. In order to restore confidence and allow dentists to plan ahead, it is also vital that the sector has early sight of proposals and an opportunity to shape the reform in a way that is sustainable over the longer term.

“Having already been delayed until November, there can be no more kicking the can down the road. This is a service on its knees and patients are paying the price.”