Patients waiting up to a year for NHS dental care, research shows

Average waiting times for appointments have soared in Scotland since 2019 according to FOI data obtained by the party.

Patients waiting up to a year for NHS dental treatment in Grampian, reports Scottish Labour FOI STV News

Patients are waiting close to a year for a dental appointment, sparking fears over Scotland’s oral health.

A freedom of Information request by the Scottish Labour party has shown waits for dental surgery have soared across Scotland since 2019.

Each health board that responded had seen average waits for dental surgeries rise sharply over recent years, with people typically waiting close to a year in some parts of Scotland.

In Grampian, the average wait for Oral and Maxillofacial surgery is 51 weeks – almost an entire year.

In Lanarkshire, waits for public dental surgery are now nine times longer, rising from an average of five weeks to 44.

Scottish Labour MSP Paul Sweeney said: “Scotland is in the grips of a dentistry crisis, from the collapse of local NHS services to the soaring waits for surgery.

“Patients are being left in pain for months on end waiting for essential dental surgery because of the SNP’s disastrous incompetence.

“The collapse of local NHS dentistry is piling pressure on over-stretched hospitals and leaving oral health to deteriorate.

“The SNP must end this scandal by supporting local NHS dentistry services and tackling the chaos in our hospitals.”

Labour hit out over dentistry 'crisis' Getty Images

Public health minister Jenni Minto said: “We continue to work closely with NHS Boards to maximise capacity and reduce the length of time people are waiting for appointments and treatment. This includes targets to address long waits and delivery of our £1bn NHS Recovery Plan.

“We are seeing significant recovery in NHS dental service provision since infection restrictions were lifted with 3.8 million courses of treatment in the 12 months to June 2023 – an increase of 27% on the previous year.

“We understand that in certain areas NHS dental access is challenging and are working closely with health boards to ensure they have the necessary support to offer continuity of care to patients, including providing grant support for new or expanded NHS practices where necessary. The fee reforms will also continue enhanced payments to practices for patients from the most deprived areas.

“We invest more than £400m in dentistry each year and the new NHS fee system, beginning on November 1, reflects the increased costs of modern dentistry.

“These reforms seek to improve and protect oral health, particularly for children and vulnerable adults, by focussing on more patient-centred care such as preventative periodontal – gum disease – treatments.”

NHS Ayrshire & Arran
  • 2019/20: 12 weeks
  • 2020/21: 12 weeks
  • 2021/22: 30 weeks
  • 2022/23: 42 weeks
  • 2023/24 (most recent): 37 weeks

2019 vs most recent: 208%

NHS Borders*
  • 2019/20: 13 weeks
  • 2020/21: 20 weeks
  • 2021/22: 29 weeks
  • 2022/23: 29 weeks
  • 2023/24 (most recent): 34 weeks

2019 vs most recent: 162%

NHS Dumfries & Galloway*
  • 2019/20: 7 weeks
  • 2020/21: 13 weeks
  • 2021/22: 11 weeks
  • 2022/23: 15 weeks
  • 2023/24 (most recent): 16 weeks

2019 vs most recent: 129%

NHS Grampian*
  • 2019/20: 22 weeks
  • 2020/21: 18 weeks
  • 2021/22: 32 weeks
  • 2022/23: 32 weeks
  • 2023/24 (most recent): 51 weeks

2019 vs most recent: 132%

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde
  • 2019/20: 18 weeks
  • 2020/21: 18 weeks
  • 2021/22: 32 weeks
  • 2022/23: 28 weeks
  • 2023/24 (most recent): 29 weeks

2019 vs most recent: 61%

NHS Lanarkshire
  • 2019/20: 5 weeks
  • 2020/21: 21 weeks
  • 2021/22: 36 weeks
  • 2022/23: 44 weeks
  • 2023/24 (most recent): N/A

2019 vs most recent: 780%

NHS Tayside
  • 2019/20: 2.5 weeks
  • 2020/21: 5 weeks
  • 2021/22: 6.5 weeks
  • 2022/23: 9.7 weeks
  • 2023/24 (most recent): N/A

2019 vs most recent: 288%

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