Dental patients registered with the Lerwick practice previously run by Alan Owen are being told they may now only receive check-ups annually, rather than every six months as was previously the case.
A letter currently being issued by NHS Shetland interim dental director Pippa Arbon states that patients who previously visited the St Olaf Street practice could, in future, be asked to attend Montfield or the Gilbert Bain Hospital instead.
The health service took over the practice at the end of last year following Mr Owen’s retirement. But there were delays in the re-opening as NHS Shetland quickly tried to replace vital dentistry tools with new equipment from Germany.
The surgery had originally been scheduled to re-open in October but remained closed until December. Several months on a number of patients are still waiting to hear news of check-ups.
In her letter Mrs Arbon stated that patients who needed treatment would be seen by a dentist as quickly as possible. But she added people with generally healthy teeth would have to wait 12 months between appointments.
She wrote: “We will always prioritise patients who need active treatment across the whole of the NHS-provided service. The frequency of routine check-ups should be based on clinical need. This will mean for some patients, they are asked to attend the practice more frequently because they have a particular need or condition that needs closer monitoring.
“When you next see your dentist, they will decide with you what frequency you need for routine check-ups. For the majority of the population who have a healthy mouth and no active dental problems, a check-up interval of a year would be entirely appropriate. What is important is that your dentist makes the assessment with you and if you are required to attend the practice more frequently, then you understand the reasons for this.
“St Olaf Street dental practice is part of the wider NHS Shetland dental service. In Lerwick we have practices at Montfield, the Gilbert Bain Hospital and St Olaf Street. In order to provide the quickest access for patients, you may be offered an appointment at any one of these locations and we will always make this clear to you at the time of you booking your appointment.”
Mrs Arbon admitted there had been “negative publicity” about the dental service since Mr Owen’s retirement, but insisted she had been grateful to see “compliments given on a daily basis” to her staff.
She wrote: “I want to reassure you that all my staff are working very hard to provide a service to as many residents as possible. Our aim is to be able to offer registration to every resident and to provide a service that meets the needs of our local population.”