Stornoway’s dental centre is underused due to shortage of dentists
Waiting lists frozen over dentist shortage, patients forced to mainland for treatment
21 February 2017
Islanders have to travel to the mainland to see a dentist as waiting lists in Lewis
are full up.
Stornoway’s modern £4.7 million dental centre with its seven purpose built surgeries
plus five training surgeries is underused after half the number of dentists left.
A petition set up by an islander demands the Scottish Government intervenes to provide
a proper service.
The petition said: “The only way we can register as NHS dental patients at the moment
is to travel away from the island, to a town such as Inverness.
“Such a journey not only requires considerable expense but depending on a person's
employment and family circumstances would also usually necessitate an overnight stay
on the mainland.
“For many of us this would mean great inconvenience.
“For example we would need to arrange childcare and find alternative ways to ensure
that other family responsibilities are looked after.
“Many residents simply cannot afford the expense and inconvenience of travelling
to Inverness every few months for dental treatment.
Less than six dentists are available in Stornoway compared to 10 just three years
A health board spokesperson said: “NHS Western Isles recognises and acknowledges
the current capacity issues in relation to dental service provision on Lewis, and
remains steadfast in its resolve to establish an efficient and effective model to
meet current and future demands.
There was no waiting list in 2014 when the number of dentists peaked at the equivalent
of 10 full time dentists.
But then two independent dentists moved on and a recruited replacement only stayed
for six months.
Since then a further three health board dentists have left and one is on extended
At the moment, the island is down to the equivalent of 5.8 full time dentists.
All dentists are running lists of 2000 to 2500, which cannot be increased “for safety
reasons,” said the health board.
The spokesperson said: “We do currently register special needs groups, and emergency
dental care continues to be available for anyone assessed as requiring that.”
She added: “Proposals have been developed to redesign the service but unfortunately
have not yet been agreed.”
The dental service across the islands is currently “under active review to improve
the distribution, quality, sustainability and access to services.”
Lewis and Harris
has one dentist currently for every 3,138 population.
Uist and Benbecula has one dentist for every 1,615 people.
On Barra, a sole dentist covers the 1,160 population.
Planning is at an “advanced
stage” for a new practice in Stornoway which would employ three dentists. If it goes
ahead, they could take 6,000 patients by September or October, said the health board.
A Scottish Government spokesman said NHS Western Isles is making “continuous efforts”
to improve local dental services.
He added: “We are committed to ensuring that patients who wish to have access to
NHS dental services are able to do so.
“Across Scotland, more than 4.9 million people have now registered for NHS dental
services, and the total number of independent dental practitioners providing NHS
services have risen by more than 30% under this government.”