The Scottish Parliament
General Question Time
Thursday 6 November 2008
8. Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that all adults and children in Caithness and other parts of the Highlands and Islands are able to register with an NHS dentist. (S3O-4739)
The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing (Nicola Sturgeon): Responsibility for the overall provision of NHS general dental services rests with NHS boards.
NHS Highland has already expanded its salaried dental services and has a number of other projects planned to expand services further. New dental surgeries have been established in Wick, Fort William and Inverness, and there are plans to establish new premises in Portree, Grantown, Invergordon and Tain. Those developments will result in the creation of an additional 29 dental surgeries and the registration of a minimum additional 29,000 patients under NHS arrangements.
NHS Highland is raising awareness of the grants that are available under the Scottish dental access initiative, and it has been provisionally allocated £4.14 million from the primary and community care modernisation fund.
Rob Gibson: I thank the cabinet secretary for that detailed answer. At present, there is a shortfall of graduates who are able to take up posts. For example, in Orkney, around 2.4 full-time posts are required. The figure in Caithness would probably be double that. Will the cabinet secretary give us an idea of the flow of graduates who will be able to fill the posts in the new dental premises that we are about to build?
Nicola Sturgeon: Rob Gibson raises an important point. As we expand the opportunities and the incentives for dentists to do NHS dentistry, we must ensure that the flow of dentists through education and into those posts is as smooth as possible. That is one of the key reasons why the Government took the decision to open the Aberdeen dental school. It opened on 6 October, and I am pleased to say that it has now accepted its first intake of students. That will increase the number of students training in Scotland, so in time it will increase the number of graduates.
In the 2007-08 academic session, 492 students across Scotland applied for the dental bursary.
That will ensure a future stock of dentists for NHS dentistry.