NHS dentists hope to return to a pre-Covid range of treatments this month, as they continue to face the “huge challenge” of clearing its extensive backlog of cases.
Director of dentistry Antony Visocchi has asked patients to “help us help you” as it works to bring services back to normal.
In a letter sent to all dental patients of NHS Shetland, Mr Visocchi said he aimed to provide context to the challenges faced by dentists in the isles.
“NHS boards in Scotland provide dental services under the name of Public Dental Service (PDS). This is a special care service to provide dental care for patients identified as belonging to vulnerable groups.
“Patients who do not belong to a vulnerable group are able to receive treatment with the General Dental Service (GDS) or ‘high street’ dentists.”
However, he said a lack of “high street” dentists in the isles meant the PDS had been forced to step in to provide GDS services – something which had increased demand on a limited capacity.
“The effect of Covid has added to this pressure.
“Nevertheless, NHS Shetland’s PDS is continuing to remobilise dental service provision across our sites.
“We have also had to adjust due to the restrictions implemented since Christmas 2020 which were imposed after an increase in Covid cases.”
He added: “We are expecting, from May 2021, to be able to return to our pre-Covid range of treatments but restrictions will remain.
“And, as we have been unable to see patients for routine care for the past 12 months, we now have a huge challenge in attending to the backlog of care required.”
Mr Visocchi said there was a need to prioritise services to those most in need.
“We are asking patients to ‘help us help you’ and bear with us as we try to return to pre-Covid activity.”
He urged patients to only contact the service if they needed to be seen in an emergency.
“Once we have overcome this challenging period, I am expecting to see us return to some normality with a much greater availability of appointments.
“Plans are underway to increase long-term access to dental services across the whole of the community.”