Dental Services (Caithness)

Robert Burns – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 27 February 2003.

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Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat 2:30, 27 February 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive how the £107,000 funding package for Highland NHS Board will help the provision of dental services in Caithness. (S1O-6522)

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour

The £107,000 allocated to NHS Highland is to support improvements in primary care dental services. It is for the primary care trust in conjunction with the dental profession locally to agree how best to target the funding.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

The minister will appreciate that, although £107,000 sounds like a lot, it does not fund an enormous number of dentists. As I have said in previous questions, many—perhaps thousands—of my constituents do not receive NHS dental services. Does the minister agree that, if we ignore the problem, we are merely storing up a bigger and much more expensive problem for the years to come?

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour

I assure the member that we are in no way ignoring the problems that people who cannot access dental services locally face. We are totally committed to ensuring that, as far as is possible, people can find dentists that are accessible. For that reason, I have announced several measures—including access grants, golden hellos and support for practice improvements—that are aimed at ensuring that every person in Scotland who wishes to can access a dentist under the NHS.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

The minister is aware of my concern about dentists who provide NHS services in remote rural areas. Will she examine the mechanisms that trigger support for dentists who provide NHS services in remote rural areas? We must ensure that those mechanisms do not in fact act against such dentists. Will she examine the remote and rural areas support package for those dentists to ensure that we can offer them further help?

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour

I am grateful to Rhoda Grant for her contribution to the suggestions that have been made, such as to improve the amount that we pay dentists under the rural initiative. We intend to examine that. At present, rural dentists receive £1,500 to assist them in delivering their service. We will consider trying to increase that to ensure that people who provide such a service face no financial penalties.