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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 11:49 GMT
6m boost for NHS dental treatment
Dentist and patient
The funding will be spread across Scotland
A 6m package to help improve access to NHS dental treatment and modernise practices has been announced in Scotland.

Half the funding is earmarked for the recruitment and retention of dentists, who will be encouraged to do more work for the NHS.

Deputy Health Minister Mary Mulligan said dentists would be involved in deciding how the 3m targeted at improving practices would be spent.

Mary Mulligan
We aim to make the NHS as attractive as possible to dentists

Mary Mulligan
Deputy Health Minister
But opposition politicians accused the Scottish Executive of acting too late to halt a crisis.

Last April Ms Mulligan launched a 1m incentive fund offering 3,000 "golden hellos" to newly-qualified dentists to work in rural areas.

In June she announced that 3m would be made available to improve facilities at dental practices, a move she hoped would create better access for patients with disabilities.

An additional 3m to improve dental services was announced on Wednesday.

It will be split between NHS boards and trusts across Scotland, who will work with local dentists to decide how to spend the money.

Encouraging recruitment

It is expected that the cash will be used to provide new equipment, modernise premises and facilities and provide disabled access ramps.

The other 3m will go towards initiatives aimed at encouraging recruitment and retention of dentists.

These will include encouraging dentists with family commitments to start practising again and undertake more NHS work through an enhanced "return to work" scheme worth up to 6,750 a year.

Where funding will go
Arygll & Clyde 256,730
Ayrshire and Arran 215,480
Borders 57,830
Dumfries & Galloway 63,410
Fife 184,760
Forth Valley 161, 600
Grampian 269,990
Greater Glasgow 606,470
Highland 107,330
Lanarkshire 315,920
Lothian 479,060
Orkney 8,910
Shetland 9,330
Tayside 248,240
Western Isles 14,940
"Through this twin-track approach - investing in the profession and further investing in practice modernisation - we aim to make the NHS as attractive as possible to dentists, create better dental services for our patients and ensure better oral health for current and future generations of Scots," said Ms Mulligan.

Last year a Consumers' Association report said dental care was "significantly worse" in Scotland than south of the border.

Its survey suggested a third of dentists in Scotland no longer took on NHS patients.

In parts of the Highlands and Islands and south-west Scotland between 70% and 80% of dental practices would not treat any NHS patients.

Commenting on the latest announcement, Tory health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said the executive had only reacted once the situation reached crisis point.

She said: "In Caithness and Sutherland there simply aren't dentists to access, and to date the executive has done nothing about it," said the Highlands and Islands MSP.

Problems repeated

"It would make a welcome change if, instead of announcing money, they actually used that money effectively to provide a service to those needing it."

Margaret Ewing, Scottish National Party MSP for Moray, accused ministers of trying to "throw money" at the problem.

"There are problems repeated across the country of money not reaching the frontline, and instead being delayed or diverted to other priorities," she said.

"This has left communities across the Highlands without adequate dental cover, and I know from my own constituency that there are many patients who can't get access to dentists at all."

See also:

06 Feb 03 | Scotland
06 Jan 03 | Health
11 Nov 02 | Scotland
03 Jun 02 | Scotland
25 Apr 02 | Scotland
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