Scottish dentists not reassured by dental reforms

Deputy Health Minister Rhona Brankin says that despite rows over reforms of the profession the Scottish Executive will maintain good links with dentists.

The government minister told the annual conference of the British Dental Association (BDA) , "We are delivering on dentistry," despite the association insisting that there is a dental crisis in Scotland.

The lack of NHS dentists has been well documented with long queues of people forming outside new surgeries, and the BDA last month deplored Ms Brankin comments when she accused Stranraer dentist Kenneth Barr, of a "political stunt" when he moved 1,000 patients out of the NHS.

Barr insists he had no political motives and could see no reason why she had singled him out.

In her speech, the minister signalled a new drive to improve the dental health of children, saying that it was unacceptable that by the age of three, more than 60% of children in deprived areas will have dental disease.She says she is determined to turn that statistic around.

Ms Brankin told the delegates that she had earlier this year announced the biggest shake-up of NHS dental services since the start of the health service, adding that the reforms were matched with record levels of funding, to ensure that the NHS in Scotland "becomes a more attractive place for dentists to work".

She says she has listened closely to the views of dentists around the country and believes that the package of measures announced meets their calls for a more flexible and less bureaucratic system.

She did acknowledged concerns about a shortage of dentists, and says she is aware that the profession felt "very acutely" the impact of current workforce shortages. Brankin says in order to deliver modernisation, a key challenge is to secure a dental workforce to meet the demands for NHS dental services.

She says she is also aware that after the announcement, dentists will now be carefully considering how their practices can benefit from the incentives on offer and she means to ensure that dentists are kept properly informed of developments as implementation of the action plan is rolled out across Scotland, that she says will be a priority.

SNP health spokeswoman Shona Robison described the speech as a missed opportunity to reassure NHS dentists about their future within the public sector and there was no further information about the incentives needed to keep dentists in the public sector.

Ms Brankin was given a polite hearing at Friday's conference, although some delegates appeared unhappy that there was no time for her to take questions.

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