In January this year, we published the oral health improvement plan, which sets out the strategic direction for national health service dentistry, building on the considerable achievements that we have made on child oral health and access to NHS dentistry. We will be introducing a new programme of preventive care and, over time, we will introduce an oral health risk assessment for adults. We also have a programme for government commitment to provide new oral health domiciliary care services, which will be rolled out next year.
In 2017, the number of mouth cancer deaths in NHS Grampian rose from 21 to 28. Late presentation is often a factor. My father ignored an ulcer in his mouth as something that could be dealt with later, but later turned out to be too late. What steps can the Scottish Government take to encourage people to check their mouth regularly and to seek medical advice at the earliest possible opportunity if they notice anything at all unusual?
I recognise the member’s personal interest in the subject.
The early detection of oral cancer lies at the centre of our proposals. The focus of the oral health improvement plan for adult patients is to introduce a more preventive system for NHS dental care. Over time, we will introduce the oral health risk assessment, which I mentioned in my first answer. In the improvement plan, we envisage a new system of preventive care, at the centre of which is that assessment of adults. That will be a considerable enhancement of the current check-up regime. Patients will receive tailored services on how to manage and look after their oral health, including advice on lifestyle factors such as smoking and drinking, which are clear risk factors associated with oral cancer.
As well as maintaining free NHS dental checks for patients, we have taken the lead on public health measures. For example, we are the first country in the United Kingdom to announce our intention to implement, as soon as practically possible, a human papillomavirus vaccination programme for adolescent boys.