A brand new dental practice for Lerwick could be in place in less than two years if plans unveiled to the board of NHS Shetland become reality.
The additional practice would be in a building converted for the purpose with room for at least three, and possibly four, dentists.
Director of clinical services Simon Bokor-Ingram told the board on Tuesday that the dental service not only had to plan ahead but to expand, as more people are registering with dentists. Waiting lists have been up to four years in Lerwick for non-urgent registrations.
Mr Bokor-Ingram outlined the preferred option for the proposed new practice as leasing and converting a premises within Lerwick which would accommodate at least three and possibly four dental chairs. The project has an estimated conversion cost of £534,000 and should be up and running by 2011.
Head of dental services Mike Collins said there were new Scottish Government targets for registration and new public health targets, particularly in relation to services for children and older people. Salaried dental services provided by NHS staff working at health centres and Montfield had done well, he said, but were “really stretched”.
Mr Collins said the aim was to attract an independent service to the “hotspot” of Lerwick: “Demand is rising. Lerwick is the main problem because of ‘cross boundary flow’ – people do not register where they live.”
He said that although there was a long waiting list to be seen in Lerwick, people would always be treated in an emergency. There was less pressure in other areas. Mr Collins conceded that although it was always difficult to recruit to Shetland, the vocational training scheme of attracting newly qualified dentists had done well.
Leasing a building in Lerwick was the preferred option for several reasons, according to Mr Bokor-Ingram.
The NHS has no land in the town for a new build and although conversion of premises adjacent to the Montfield Dental Health Centre (currently used by the staff development department) was considered, this was rejected as unsuitable as the development department should be close to where the staff work. In any case parking is a problem at Montfield.
Informal approaches have already been made to local estate agents and surveyors about possible premises for the dental practice, which would have to offer disabled access and good parking. There would also have to be enough room for at least three dental chairs and a decontamination unit, or four dental chairs if the decontamination unit was elsewhere.
The proposals should bring the number of dentists in Shetland up to approximately 15, which is considered by the board to be realistic for the population.