NHS Grampian patients wait almost a year on average for facial surgeries

Figures from 2023/24 show patients at NHS Grampian waited 51 weeks for oral and maxillofacial surgery.

NHS Grampian patients wait almost a year on average for facial surgeries iStock

Patients of one of Scotland’s health boards waited almost a year on average for surgery on their face, head and neck, figures have shown.

Freedom of information data obtained by Scottish Labour showed significant increases in the average length of waiting times for surgeries since 2019.

In 2019/20, the average wait for oral and maxillofacial surgery at NHS Grampian was 22 weeks, but figures from 2023/24 show patients have waited around 51 weeks for an appointment – a 132% increase.

In Dumfries and Galloway – another board which released information on maxillofacial work – waiting times increased by 129% during the same time period, but the board performed better overall than Grampian, with average waits rising from seven weeks to 16.

In responses from both boards, the figures supplied referred to “oral and maxillofacial surgery” – which can span across the mouth, jaw, face and neck.

A spokesman for NHS Grampian said: “Oral and maxillofacial surgery covers areas including cancers of the head and neck, head and neck trauma, cleft lip surgery and cosmetic work – as well as acute dental work, including the removal of wisdom teeth.

“As with all specialities, patients are seen based on clinical need – for instance a cancer patient would be seen far quicker than a patient waiting for a cosmetic procedure.

“As has been well documented, there are pressures across the NHS, and the oral and maxillofacial speciality is no exception.

“We know that waiting times are longer than we would wish and this impacts on patients, we apologise to those affected. NHS Grampian is working hard to reduce waiting times across the region.”

The figures come as Scottish Labour released details of what party MSP Paul Sweeney described as a “dentistry crisis” in five other health boards.

NHS Lanarkshire saw waits for public dental surgery increase from five weeks on average to 44 weeks in 2022/23 for public dental surgery – the most up-to-date figures provided by the health board.

Ayrshire and Arran waits increased from 12 weeks in 2019/20 to 37 in 2023/24, while NHS Borders went from 13 weeks on average to 34.

While the average wait for inpatient oral surgery in Greater and Glasgow Clyde increased from 18 to 29 weeks.

In NHS Tayside, the average wait increased from 2.5 weeks in 2019/20 to 9.7 in 2022/23. Figures for the following year were not supplied by the health board.

The Scottish Government has said it was supporting dentists through its plan for recovery from the pandemic.

Mr 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.”

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 £1 billion 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 £400 million 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 focusing on more patient-centred care such as preventative periodontal – gum disease – treatments.”

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