Plan to tackle oral health inequality in Scotland

SCOTTISH Government has launched a new improvement plan aiming to prevent poor oral health, cut oral health inequalities and address the dental needs of an ageing population.

The new Oral Health Improvement Plan sets out a new preventive system of care to assess patients based on risk and address the link between deprivation and ill-health. It will feature the introduction of personalised care plans which focus on lifestyle choices, for example diet, alcohol and smoking, and how these impact on health.

Among recommendations is a new scheme to meet the needs of an ageing population with suitably skilled practitioners to treat patients who are cared for in their own homes.

A Community Challenge Fund of up to £500,000 will be introduced in 2018/19 allowing organisations to bid for funding to work in deprived communities and support people to practise better oral health.

Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "Record numbers of Scots have access to NHS dentists, and as a nation our oral health is improving. But poor oral health is entirely preventable and we need to ensure we do all we can to tackle it, and break the link between oral health and deprivation.

"The Oral Health Improvement Plan will support the profession to spend more time on what they do best – providing excellent care for the patients who need it most. We will continue to work closely with them as the recommendations are implemented. It will ensure people get the personalised care they need, when and where they need it."

The initiative has been welcomed by Oral Health Foundation, which believes the plan can make a real difference to the future of oral health in Scotland.

But the BDA has urged ministers to proceed with caution and has expressed concern that changes to the range of care available on the NHS could undermine the viability of practices across Scotland. It also accuses the Scottish Government of spin, launching the Plan off the back of statistics claiming “record breaking” numbers of registered patients when actual attendance at NHS dentists has reached a record low.

It says the percentage of patients who saw a dentist within the previous two years has shown a steady decline from around 98 per cent between September 2006 and March 2008, to 84.1 per cent in September 2010 and now 70.7 per cent in September 2017, the lowest reported rate.

David Cross, Vice Chair of the BDA’s Scottish Council said: “This programme represents the biggest change to NHS dentistry in the last 50 years, but it will be impossible to deliver without new investment. Yes, reform is needed, but Ministers must tread carefully and avoid the unintended consequences that could easily destabilise the service.”

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