Scotland’s dentists should be given the same help as their Welsh counterparts to prevent any chance of a “two-tier” health service, professionals say.
The Welsh Assembly has made grant funding available for dental practitioners to improve ventilation in their surgeries — something the Scottish Government has admitted is a fundamental part of the “Covid armoury”.
Capital funding of £450,000 has been made available by the Senedd to build and improve the air circulation, which will help cut “fallow time” considerably and allow more patients to be seen.
The British Dental Association has been pushing all four home nations governments for the cash, with so far only the Welsh executive making it available.
Government needs to provide ‘clear guidance’
Good ventilation is acknowledged by scientists as very important in helping to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
David McColl, chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said: “Dental practices still face tight restrictions that have radically reduced the number of patients we can treat.
“Support for new equipment could help bring huge numbers back through our doors. The Welsh Government has shown real leadership here, and we need to see the same in Scotland.
“At the very least, dentists need clear guidance from the Scottish Government about what they should be doing about ventilation.”
Promise to look into it
When asked during Thursday’s press briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was unaware of the BDA’s request.
She said: “I’m not sure what you are referring to with the Welsh Government’s (grant system) but I am happy to look into it.
“I’m unsure if the funding arrangements around dentists are exactly the same in Scotland and Wales but we will look into it.
“We have provided funding for dentistry over the course of the pandemic. They are operating more normally now, but were severely restricted at the outset.”
Covid prevention armoury
Deputy chief medical officer Doctor Nicola Steedman added: “As far as ventilation goes, we know it is really important in terms of preventing Covid. In particular, airborne particles.
“Anywhere offering health care or social care services should be looking toward their ventilation provision.
“Dentists will still be seeing emergencies. We have to assume anyone can be infectious. Ventilation is a really important part of our Covid prevention armoury.”
Plans for vaccine recruitment
The first minister added dentists and other allied health professionals are included in plans to create a huge number of vaccinators able to administer various coronavirus jabs.
“We want people who are appropriately trained to administer the vaccine to do that,” she said.
“It is part of the overall programme, we had sufficient numbers of people doing the programme right now but, as we set out yesterday, that has to scale up as supplies scale up.
“Community pharmacies will begin to come onstream as vaccination sites over the next few weeks.”
Dr Steedman added: “We are looking to scale up and involve many of our primary care contractors – dentists, optometrists and community pharmacists as appropriate and as they could be used to give vaccination.”