5. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its commitment to abolish national health service dental charges by the end of the current parliamentary session. (S6O-02256)
The Scottish Government remains committed to the removal of all dental charges during the lifetime of this Parliament. We have made initial progress towards that commitment with the extension of free national health service dental care to young people aged 18 to 25. The new policy prospectus provides a commitment to sustained, improved and equitable national access to NHS dentistry.
My inbox has been flooded with emails from constituents and dental practitioners. One dentist wrote:
“Many dedicated NHS colleagues can no longer see their futures working in a dysfunctional and underfunded system. It is our patients—and your constituents—who will end up paying the price.”
The Scottish Government pledged to make NHS dentistry free at the point of use by 2026, but that will not be the case if the Scottish National Party continues presiding over the collapse of NHS dental surgeries. Last week, the minister was unable to provide assurance that there would be no further delay to the reform process.
We have the opportunity to build a service that is fit for the 21st century, with prevention at its heart. What assurance can the minister give that the reforms will not be delayed and that they will actually be effective?
As I said last week, the single most important reform that we can put in place is payment reform and we are working on that with dentists and their organisations as I speak. We have brought in 10 per cent bridging payments for dentists, which will be in place until 31 October, and we intend to bring in a new payment structure, which we hope will be agreed by dentists, on 1 November this year.