WHERE ARE THE DENTISTS?: Treatment trouble for Kyle patients a sign of wider problems in rural healthcare

This dental practice in Kyle closed last month

At least 2,000 patients previously registered with the Skye and Lochalsh Dental Practice in Kyle are only able to access emergency pain relief with other surgeries, it has been claimed.

Last month, it emerged that many of the 4,000 patients in total registered with the SLDP, which closed last month, have been offered the opportunity to register with practices in Portree and Dingwall.

“However, neither of these is offering anything in the way of treatment, aside from emergency treatment for pain,” one patient, John Phillips from Breakish in Skye, wrote in last week’s Free Press.

“I have been waiting six months or more for dental treatment as Skye and Lochalsh Dental Practice restricted their appointments to emergency only from September 2022 or before.”

In a letter to two of the SNP leadership candidates – health secretary Humza Yousaf and local MSP Kate Forbes – Mr Phillips said: “I have four fillings missing and a broken tooth on a denture. I have contacted dentists as far away as Fort William and Invergordon and none of them can offer more than emergency pain-related treatment – even as a private patient.

“The earliest appointment I have been offered is at the end of May.

“As far as I am aware, around 2,000 people registered with Skye and Lochalsh Dental Practice have been left without dental care. Portree Dental Care, and Inchvannie House, to whom we have been referred, already have waiting lists of their own without taking on any of SLDP’s workload so our being referred to them is nothing short of scandalous – a cynical face-saving exercise.

“This is a dental disaster and no-one seems to be doing anything about it.”

NHS Highland were adamant that the Portree dental practice has “accepted the transfer of all patients previously registered” with the Kyle practice.

A spokesman added: “A small number of patients have chosen to transfer their registration to the Inchvannie dental practice in Dingwall as their former dentist in the Skye and Lochalsh dental practice [Navin Aziz] also practices in Dingwall.

“The Portree practice is currently prioritising patients according to clinical need whilst they progress renovations within the practice to provide an additional surgery.”

Rhoda Grant, Scottish Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said the dental sector throughout the Highlands had failed to get the support from the Scottish Government that it urgently needs.

The news that thousands of patients in the Skye and Lochalsh area are only being offered access to a dentist for ‘emergency pain relief’, some with dentist many miles away, continues to raise many concerns, she added.

“This is shocking.  Patients are struggling for treatment, some facing months to be seen by anyone in the entire region,” said Ms Grant.

“I have yet to hear any effective policy measures or initiatives to be brought forward by this administration in an attempt to help our dental sector.

“I have yet to hear of any care or consideration from them towards our communities who are struggling to access basic health care. This is a party driving up the health divide between urban and rural Scotland by the day.

“Whilst we have a Cabinet Secretary for Health attempting to win the coveted seat of First Minister, he turns a blind eye to the rising health problems on his watch.

“I have written to the Cabinet Secretary, once again, to ask what they are doing to address the issues faced by our dentists and by our patients. This week Mr Yusuf was quoted saying, ‘I’m very proud of our track record in government.’

“There is nothing about his record as Cabinet Secretary for Health that I would be proud of.”