Islanders on Lewis and Harris are facing the prospect of travelling to the mainland to see a dentist due to a shortage in the islands.
A visit to the dentists could mean a long journey
The only practice in Stornoway has found it almost impossible to recruit dentists and there has been a call for services to be subsidised.
The lack of NHS dental services is affecting the whole of Scotland, especially rural areas.
The British Medical Association has criticised current incentive offers in
Scotland as "sticking plaster solutions" and they called for more government
cash aid to help attract dentists to rural areas
Kenneth MacDonald, who has run Stornoway's Bayhead dental practice for more than 20 years, said he had no choice to stop taking on new patients because he and his staff were under too much pressure.
He said that attracting more dentists to his practice was a problem because he could not compete with the private sector salaries and modern lifestyle
He said: "I decided I had to draw the line somewhere.
"We were running a waiting list procedure but it was just putting too much
pressure on the staff.
"We are required to provide a high standard of care and we found that patient
treatments which could have been administered quickly were just dragging on and on."
Bayhead sees about 750 patients a week but it has to turn away about 12 every day.
Commenting on his recruitment problems, Dr MacDonald said: "People don't
necessarily want to live in a large city, but they do want access to what cities
have to offer."
Dr MacDonald said that of the 18 dentists who have walked through his doors
over the years he has yet to recruit one with a large amount of experience.
He added: "I think incentive in the short term anyway, is really the only
method that works."
£70,000 a year
By the end of the year the number of dentists at Bayhead will have fallen to
One recently took a position at a mainland private practice in Thurso after
the job was advertised with an annual salary of £70,000 and a patient load of
about 14 a day.
"I just can't compete with that," added Dr MacDonald. "That position
attracted 23 applications and when I advertise it's sometimes difficult to get
any interest at all."
John Lyon the chief administrator's dental officer for NHS Western Isles said
the problems the area were suffering were in line with the general issues
affecting dental services throughout Scotland.
However, he said that there was a fairly slim chance of islanders being taken
on at non private practices in the mainland Highlands.
Commenting on the situation at Bayhead he said: "This is a historic problem
and, indeed, it is a problem which is affecting dental services throughout
He continued: "There has been a reduction in the number of dental graduates
and it's also to do with changes in working practices.
"Dentists these days want to work less hours and a number of graduates do
leave Scotland to work in England."