Statement from the Chief Dental Officer, Tom Ferris

Received on 22 April 2021

April 2021

Dear Colleagues

Thank you for your invitation to the Conference of Local Dental committees to both Mairi Gougeon, MSP, Minister for Public Health and Sport and me; it is disappointing that we are unable to join you due to the pre-election period for the Scottish parliamentary elections.

I cannot start anywhere else apart from taking some time to thank you and your teams for your efforts and support over the past year – challenging and unprecedented are certainly the correct words for this time.

It is widely acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic has radically changed the way we deliver health and social care services in Scotland and we recognise that the dental sector has been amongst those most affected, for all the reasons you deal with in your daily clinical lives. In thinking about our journey from last March, it is incredible the amount of support that I have received from you, through cessation of High Street services to reintroduction of treatments in November and I am committed to ensuring that NHS dental services are well placed to remobilise further and aligned with public health control measures.

This recognition has been demonstrated by the financial support provided to NHS dentistry by the Scottish Government throughout the pandemic.  The emergency financial support measures include an increase in funding of £36m annually to NHS dentistry in the financial year 2020/21.  We also estimate that at present the dental sector in Scotland is receiving £1.5m of free PPE per week.  The budget arrangements for 2021/22 includes this additional continued support funding.

I intimated in the PCA communication from 26 October last year that we wished to introduce tiered funding support linked to levels of activity and patient registration.  This is an important element in rebuilding activity in those  NHS dental services provided through the independent contractor model.  Increasing access to care, reducing any backlog and reducing inequalities can only be addressed through appropriate remobilisation led by clinical priorities. To that end we will continue to look at PPE supply and support your practices in finding ventilation solutions to enable you and your teams to provide care safely to more of your patients.

It is also clear that the emergency financial support measures which were put in place at the end of March 2020 were not envisioned to be a long term funding solution for NHS dentistry.  As we have some way to go in remobilising it is clear that there is a requirement for an interim financial arrangement to provide NHS dental practices with reassurance about their funding arrangements to enable them to develop future plans for their businesses within the NHS.

I have agreed with Conference committee that I will take part in an online session with you towards the end of May when I would hope to be in a position to give you more detail of our thinking.

Finally, can I thank Judith Brady and Nicola Kaya as conference Chair and organiser for their understanding of my position and their willingness to find a way forward that best suits the situation. That said, can I wish you all every success for the conference with some great debate and I look forward to joining you soon and a return to the usual conference arrangements in 2022.

With my very best wishes