Hebridean residents waiting a year for dental treatment

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The residents of two Hebridean islands are waiting a year for dental treatment. Patients living on Jura and Islay have been told by dental practices to go back in a year if they want to see a dentist.

Access to dental treatment on the islands has suffered after the only full-time dentist left last year, leaving just one part-time dentist to cover both islands.

As a result of growing waiting lists, the remaining dentist has had to prioritise children who are suffering from dental pain over patients who require routine appointments, and patients who don’t need urgent care have been advised to wait. The health board is trying to recruit a new dentist and there have been 16 potential candidates, but nobody has decided to take the job yet.

The current service is provided from a portable cabin in the grounds of the Bowmore Hospital and it is believed that the poor facilities have hindered the recruitment process. Retired GP Pat McGran explained that at the moment, the waiting room for patients is their own car. When the dentist is ready to see you, the receptionist has to come out into the car park and wave you in.

A husband and wife team took over the role in 1998 on the proviso that facilities would be upgraded, but that never happened and the current situation is very basic. The Community Health Partnership has also confirmed that there is no funding available for improvements or renovation.

Patients are being encouraged to take a ferry over to Lochgilpead or Tarbert to see a dentist, and a practice is Paisley, a five hour drive away, has started to advertise places for island residents.

A spokesperson for NHS Highland said that the current facility meets all the necessary infection control measures and while it is not an ideal set-up for staff members or patients, there is a possibility of relocating the service inside the hospital.



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