Reform of the payment system is essential to the sustainability of patient access to NHS dental services. In that connection, I wrote to the dental sector on 27 July 2023 to provide details of changes to be introduced on 1 November this year.
I am a bit surprised that the minister did not begin with an apology that the Scottish National Party has ditched another manifesto commitment, to abolish NHS dental charges. In fact, charges are not staying static—they are going up.
Can the minister tell members how many dentists will join the NHS and do more NHS work as a result of those changes? She knows that NHS dentistry is on its knees.
I point out that NHS dentists are working incredibly hard, with many working at pre-pandemic levels. When we made our announcement on 27 July, I was clear that that was the first step towards reforming dental practices, payments and governance and the dental workforce. We are working incredibly hard with NHS boards and dentists to ensure that we understand and can move forward to improve how dentists come into the NHS.
We currently have 183 students going through dental training, and Willie Rennie will remember that we lost 160 as a result of the Covid pandemic, but we aim to try and return more dentists to the sector so that we maintain the incredibly important NHS dental services that support people in Scotland to ensure that they have good oral health.