Dental hygiene students facing an extra year of study because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be properly funded, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Students on the Dundee University oral health science degree programme faced an additional twelve months of study because of the restrictions brought about in dentistry due to covid.
Money had been previously promised to those studying dentistry, but not those studying oral health.
Dundee-based Scottish Labour MSP Michael Marra raised the problem with Ms Sturgeon during First Minister’s Questions on Thursday.
Ms Sturgeon told Mr Marra she would “resolve the issue”, which was welcomed by the MSP afterward.
It comes as the Scottish Government announced £5 million to help NHS dental practices to purchase, renew or upgrade ventilation equipment.
We reported earlier in the pandemic dental surgeries faced closure because they could not afford the additional money to install ventilation systems.
Students left to suffer
The lack of money has adversely affected a number of students, with some having had t0 drop out of university entirely because they cannot afford to stay on.
Others say their mental health was impacted because of the uncertainty they faced.
Following FMQ’s Mr Marra said: “It is welcome that the first minister has committed to resolve this unacceptable situation. The Government must act without delay.
“Students should not carry the burden of this pandemic, and should not face financial ruin due to a course extension out of their control.
“The Scottish Government has extended support to dentists-in-training, so it makes no sense the same package is not being made available to hygienists.
“We have significant issues with oral health inequality in Scotland, and we need to ensure we keep the skills and talent we need.”
Ventilation funding secured
Chief Dental Officer Tom Ferris has confirmed funds can be used to purchase, renew or upgrade ventilation systems, and practices can claim retrospectively for the period April 1 2020 – 31 March 2022.
David McColl, chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee said: “This is a no-brainer from the Scottish Government. Investment in ventilation can future proof Scotland’s dental services, boost patient numbers, and pay for itself.
“We must avoid half measures. Many dentists have had no option but to buy portable systems to get patients back through their doors. Ministers must ensure they do not lose out.
“For our patients’ sake, this needs to mark a turning point when it comes to providing ongoing support to practices. Access to services has fallen off a cliff. A signature policy on free dentistry for all will be a promise that can’t be kept unless we see real commitment from ministers.”
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The remobilisation of the NHS is one of our number one priorities and the Scottish Government remains committed to ensuring that NHS dental services emerge from this pandemic well-placed to care for the oral health of the population.
“This new funding is an important step in ensuring the continued remobilisation of NHS dental services and to ensure more patients can be seen safely. We will also continue to fund free PPE for the dental sector and, from July, we will increase it by up to 50 per cent.
“We are continuing to work with the sector to provide much-needed support to fully remobilise dental services.”