NHS Shetland hopes to recruit six new dentists to work in the isles in an effort to reduce the waiting list.
The new intake, who will all be based at Montfield Hospital in Lerwick, will vastly increase the number of NHS dentists in Shetland. Currently there are 10.3 “whole time equivalent” NHS dentists in Shetland, but, working on the ratio generally accepted by the profession that there should be one dentist to 1,500 patients, there should be 18 full-time dentists in the isles.
Meanwhile the three dental caravans now in use are to be phased out as not being compliant with future standards.
The board of NHS Shetland today agreed the proposal to extend the existing Montfield dental unit in the staff development department, which would be relocated. The use of exisiting premises is encouraged by the Scottish government, the meeting heard.
Dental chief Mike Collins said that if the right premises could be provided this would attract dentists. Mr Collins said he would “ideally” like the six new chairs to be used by independent dentists, who could take private as well as NHS patients.
These dentists would differ from “salaried” dentists who work exclusively for the NHS and in general look after patients with particular needs. Greater success in attracting dentists to the isles – notoriously difficult – would be achieved, he said, by “offering something different”, that is, space for independent dentists.
Chairman of NHS Shetland board Ian Kinniburgh said: “The extra chairs will give us the ideal opportunity to reduce the waiting list. The plan is ambitious but no less than we should aim for.”
Nearly a third of Shetland’s population is not registered with a dentist, and there are around 1,700 patients waiting following a request to register with a dentist at Montfield Dental Health Centre.