9 November 2005

Dental waiting list hits 15 months - The Scotsman

by LOUISE GRAY, the Scotsman

PATIENTS are having to wait a 15 months for specialist orthodontic work in Glasgow as waiting lists lengthen amid the nation's "crisis in dentistry".

Scotland's largest dental school also had a waiting time of almost a year for restorative surgery. All specialities had an overall waiting time of six months, a rise of 40 per cent since last year.
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Opposition MSPs said the problem was indicative of a dental crisis, as fewer dentists provide national health services and hospitals struggle to recruit consultants.

However, the Glasgow Dental Hospital said the problem was under control after investing in more staff and putting on extra clinics.

The figures were revealed in a parliamentary question from Stewart Stevenson, the Scottish National Party's MSP for Banff and Buchan. The answer from Andy Kerr, the health minister, revealed that the waiting time for orthodontics - usually the fitting of braces - was 64 weeks in June 2005, compared with 30 weeks in the previous year.

Patients waiting for restorative surgery had a median wait of 46 weeks, down from 52 weeks a year before. Overall, the median waiting time for all specialities was 26 weeks, compared with 18 weeks in June 2004.

The Executive pointed out that waiting lists have fallen to 1,492 patients waiting more than 26 weeks for a first outpatient appointment at the hospital in June 2005, a reduction of 64 per cent since 31 December, 2004. A spokesman said: "We are committed to reducing waiting times across Scotland, with particular priority being given to seeing and treating those patients who have waited longest."

But Mr Stevenson said the possibility of speedy treatment in Scotland was "remote indeed", with distressed patients contacting MSPs every day to report that they were unable to get access to treatment.

He said: "It is quite clear that dental services at all levels are facing crisis levels of delays of services." Mr Stevenson said that patients across Scotland are not only waiting longer for secondary care but also finding it difficult to access a dentist in the first place. The average Scot now has to wait more than a month for an NHS dental appointment and travel 24.5 miles to reach the clinic.

He said: "If dental care in the community is ineffective, one of the immediate consequences are that problems escalate and become ones that require hospital care.

"The statistics that we see in Glasgow Dental Hospital is an indication of the failure in general dental care and it shows how if you do not get a grip on a problem when it first manifests itself, it begins to get away from you."

Professor David Wray, the clinical director of the Glasgow Dental Hospital, said there has been an "unacceptable" delay for secondary dental care across Scotland in recent years.

But, he insisted that significant investment of more than £500,000 in Glasgow has turned around the problem. The hospital has taken on a new consultant orthodontist, a new children's dentist, an extra dental hygienist and two part-time restorative dentists. Consultants have also been asked to put on extra clinics, mostly in the evenings.

"We have got the problem cracked and I think it is because of significant investment by health services and because we have very successful in getting consultant staff to respond by doing evening clinics and extra clinics," he said.

"By December, there will not be a single patient in the dental school waiting for more than 26 weeks in any department. We will have completely eliminated our waiting list problems."

However, Prof Wray said that there would be problems treating people in the future unless the Executive invests in dental schools, academia and training up more consultants. Categories [Media] [Health and Community Care]
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