Almost half of NHS dentist patients have not visited for two years

The data also shows 10% of those registered had not visited for more than a decade.

Almost half of patients registered with an NHS dentist in Scotland have not attended in the past two years, figures show.

The data also shows 10% had not visited for more than a decade.

More than 2,200 patients have not attended a dentist since the year 2000.

It comes after it was revealed average waits for NHS outpatient dentist treatment have increased in 12 health board areas since 2019.

The Scottish Government has said it is “hugely encouraging” that more than 95% of the population is registered with an NHS dentist but the British Dental Association Scotland said that number was a “meaningless metric”.

“What really matters is the patients getting through our doors, and on that note NHS dentistry has not returned to anything resembling ‘business as usual’,” said Charlotte Waite, the body’s national director.

“This service is at a tipping point. Without reform there can be no recovery.”

The data, obtained by the Lib Dems through a freedom of information request, shows how many patients have not participated with their NHS dentist in certain lengths of time, with the figures being drawn from the end of January.

Some 46.9% had not participated within two years, with 23.7% not participating within five years.

The British Dental Association (BDA) Scotland warned NHS dentistry will go from crisis to collapse if urgent reform is not taken.

A recent BDA survey showed more than half (59%) of high street NHS dentist reported having reduced the amount of NHS work they did since lockdown.

More than four in five (83%) said they plan to reduce or further reduce their NHS commitment in the year ahead.

Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said a new recovery plan is needed for NHS dentistry.

He said: “For years, SNP ministers and parliamentarians have been serving up the great dentistry distortion.

“These new figures show that simply being registered with a dentist is not a measurement of accessibility. In reality, a quarter of people registered – well over a million people – haven’t seen a dentist in the last five years.

“One in 10 registered with a dentist haven’t had a check-up or any treatment for more than a decade.

“It’s ridiculous that the First Minister’s spin even relies upon patients who haven’t been to a dentist since before the Bush administration or the Sydney Olympics. That is not a mark of success.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said it is “factually the case” and “hugely encouraging” that more than 95% of the population is registered with an NHS dentist.

“It should also be noted that the two-year period referred to includes the time when dentists were working under restrictions and appointments were limited,” they said.

“We use a range of official published statistics to understand the position in dentistry and they all show a significantly improving picture since the relaxation of Infection Prevention Controls (IPC) on the sector in April 2022.

“Official statistics published last week by Public Health Scotland show a significant recovery in NHS dental service provision from April last year, with over 3.8 million courses of treatment completed in 2022/23, an increase of more than 40% compared with 2021/22, when IPC restrictions were in force.

“In February 2022 we replaced the basic examination with an enhanced examination, so comparisons between pre- and post-pandemic statistics must be treated with caution.

“This was a deliberate choice, listening to the voices of dentists that they required more time with patients and consider the quality of dental care as much as the volume.”

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