MSP welcomes “intervention” in Uist dental plan

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The Scottish Health Council (SHC) and the Scottish Government’s Chief Dental Officer (CDO) are to meet with the Western Isles Integration Joint Board (IJB) to discuss the progress of the planned changes to dental services in the Uists.

Under plans agreed by the Chief Executives of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles last September, dental services in Uist are set to be centralised in a new dental ‘hub’ in Uist and Barra Hospital in Balivanich and with the closure of existing dental facilitiesin Lochmaddy and Liniclate.

Services at the new dental hub will be supplemented by an outreach service for care homes and other local community settings.

In statements issued this week, the SHC and CDO confirmed that hey will be meeting with the IJB to discuss the progress of the outreach elements of the planned changes and community engagement with the new service.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, this week welcomed what she described as the ‘intervention’ of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Health Council in the Uist dentistry plans.

Mrs Grant said: “The Minister for Public Health, Joe FitzPatrick, has made it clear to me that he believes the existing service provision is not sustainable. I know many service users in Uist disagree wholeheartedly with this stance.

“However”, the MSP continued, “what the Minister has said is that the effectiveness of the outreach element of the new proposals will be a key issue and that he feels the most appropriate intervention is to closely monitor the development of this element before any escalation is required.

As such, he is sending the CDO to visit with the IJB and report back to him.”

In response to the MSP’s comments, Dr Ron Culley, Chief Officer of the IJB, confirmed that the office of the Chief Dental Officer had made contact with the IJB and that a date was now being arranged for the proposed visit.

Dr Culley said: “…this is a routine matter as we often work closely with Scottish Government in relation to local reforms.

“A decision having been reached on this matter, means that the implementation of the model is now with NHS Western Isles (NHSWI) and planning is well underway.

“The IJB has no plans to revisit the decision.

“NHSWI, as it moves forward with implementation of the revised model”, Dr Culley added, “recognises and acknowledges the fact that ministers will wish to be reassured that the model delivers on its key objectives and is routinely monitored as we progress.

“As mentioned above, we’ll keep working closely with the team at the Scottish Government to ensure that all parties are fully aware of the progress being made.”

A spokesperson for the SHC said: “The Scottish Health Council’s role is to support the engagement of people and communities in shaping health and care services in Scotland.

“The Western Isles Integration Joint Board is responsible for local dental services and has a statutory duty to ensure that people’s views and needs are taken into account when decisions are made about those services.

“During this process the Scottish Health Council has provided advice to Western Isles Integration Joint Board, in particular highlighting the importance of involving people and ensuring views and concerns are fully taken into account in the decision-making process.

“We have requested a meeting with Western Isles Integration Joint Board to understand more about the next steps and how it plans to engage further with the local community.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said that they continued to monitor the development of the decision on Uist dental services, and said that “any steps” must ensure there are “sustainable outreach facilities for patients who are unable to travel, including those who are frail and elderly.”

“The purpose of the Chief Dental Officer’s visit”, the Scottish Government’s spokesperson concluded, “is to ensure this particular [outreach] element is effective and we are in discussions with the Integration Joint Board about the timings and precise nature of the visit.”