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Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO) upholds complaint against NHS Highland about child's dental wait

By Louise Glen

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NHS Highland had already made changes before the case was heard.
NHS Highland had already made changes before the case was heard.

A family made a complaint after their child’s treatment was delayed indefinitely by NHS Highland.

The family, from the Highlands, who did not want to be named, complained to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO), after dental surgery was agreed to relieve mouth pain for an 11-year-old – but after 18 months of waiting for a date, surgery was not forthcoming.

In a report, published by the SPSO, it upheld the complaint – but highlighted that NHS Highland had already taken action to change the way in which it worked. During the investigation it was discovered that staff recruitment issues had delayed treatment.

A spokeswoman for SPSO said: “C complained that the board failed to provide their child (A) with orthognathic treatment [orthognathics is a specialist subset of dentistry which involves surgical correction of growth issues with the jaw and face] within a reasonable timescale.

“A’s teeth were overcrowded to the extent that they caused pain in their head and jaw and difficulties with eating and speech. Following referral to an orthodontist, A was placed on the waiting list for orthognathic treatment.

“However, despite it being identified that A would require surgery, their treatment was not progressed.”

During the investigation, the board was said to be “open and honest about the fact that they struggled to provide specialist orthodontic and orthognathic appointments over a number of years due to staff recruitment issues and the loss of arrangements with neighbouring health boards”.

The report continued: “They acknowledged and apologised for the fact that this led to substantial delays for A.

“We commended the board for their transparency in this respect and acknowledged that there were a number of factors beyond their control that limited the provision of these services and contributed to a long waiting list for all patients in the area.”

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