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FERGUS EWING: Positive steps towards an increase in NHS dentists


By Fergus Ewing

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The government is aiming to expand NHS dental services.
The government is aiming to expand NHS dental services.

In addressing the persistent concern of insufficient NHS dental services, a matter frequently voiced by constituents, the challenge spans the entirety of Scotland and is particularly pronounced in the Highlands.

This issue prompted my engagement with Scottish Government minister Jenny Minto, leading to a productive meeting and a subsequent comprehensive written statement. The document delineates numerous affirmative measures undertaken by Minister Minto and her officials, in collaboration with health boards to actively combat the shortage of dental services.

A pivotal facet of this multifaceted approach involves the introduction of a series of financial support initiatives aimed at facilitating the establishment of additional surgeries and the recruitment of more dentists. Notably, NHS Highland has garnered several expressions of interest for this grant support, with an approval already granted for Inverness. This development is anticipated to catalyse the opening of a 3-4 surgery practice, significantly expanding the capacity to cater to up to 4500 patients. Complementary measures include a strategic focus on enlisting more trainee dentists to address the growing demand for dental care.

Moreover, this month witnessed a transformative stride across Scotland through the implementation of payment reforms. This progressive initiative seeks to enhance public access by replacing existing care and treatment fees with a new pricing structure. Crafted to incentivise dentists to provide a comprehensive range of NHS care and treatment, this reform represents a promising step towards broader accessibility.

While it’s acknowledged that these initiatives may not entirely resolve all the challenges, they are poised to make a substantial impact. The collective efforts of the Scottish Government, Health Boards, and Minister Minto indicate a dedicated commitment to addressing the pressing issues surrounding NHS dentistry.

Shifting focus, this week in Holyrood, a chorus of tributes resonated across party lines in honour of the late Lord James Douglas Hamilton. His enduring commitment to public service, spanning roles as a councillor, MP, MSP, and government minister earned him profound respect. Beyond his political prowess, Lord James was renowned for his exceptional politeness, illustrated by gestures such as rushing to open the car door for his lady chauffeur.

Adding a layer to his character, Lord James’s strength of character was exemplified by a moment of confrontation with a would-be mugger. His firm warning reflected not only his Oxford boxing background but also the indomitable spirit that defined him. Beneath the veneer of perfect manners lay a figure with a backbone of steel.

A poignant highlight of Lord James’s legacy was his compelling speech in Holyrood on the Act of Settlement during the inaugural parliamentary session from 1999 to 2003. As Holyrood bids farewell to this statesman, the void left by his absence is palpable, and his memory will undoubtedly be cherished for years to come.


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