NHS Shetland Promises Improvements in Dental Services

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Representatives from NHS Shetland have promised to make improvements to dental services on the island, which will include cutting the waiting list that has been in place for several years.

Ralph Roberts told a journalist at The Shetland Times that reducing the waiting list, which contains more than 1,000 names, is the toughest challenge faced by the trust at the moment and vowed that steps are being taken to try and ensure that more people can access NHS dental services in the area. Some patients have been waiting four years to register with an NHS dentist due to a shortage of dentists in Lerwick.

Mr Roberts said that 2011 had been a very tough year, especially as Alan Owen retired in the summer. Mr Owen had worked on the island for many years and he treated both NHS and private patients. When his surgery closed in September, it was purchased by the NHS and there were plans for it to open again shortly after. However, the opening date has been pushed back to December.

Although money is an issue for many NHS departments and services, Mr Roberts admitted that the main problem was a lack of dentists and said that this was largely due to the fact that few dentists are attracted by the idea of living and working in such a remote setting. The NHS trust admitted that it was finding it difficult to sell the lifestyle to dentists, as many are drawn to the bright lights of cities.

Chief dental officer, Pippa Arbon is currently drawing up a strategy to identify ways NHS dental chairs could be used more effectively and efficiently, with one of the ideas mentioned was to extend opening hours, to make services more accessible for people who work full-time.


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