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Dental treatment at Mid Argyll Hospital is to be prioritised to focus on emergencies, children and high risk patients while a replacement dentist is found.
With the current senior dental officer at the clinic set to retire on Friday November 2, a locum is being sought to help the remaining dentist cope with demand.
A spokesman for Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) said that priority would be given to ’emergencies, child patients, those with orthodontic appliances and patients within the high risk categories with medical issues, physical and mental impairment’.
The spokesman added: ‘To ensure this interim arrangement is only for a short period of time, the HSCP is aiming to source a locum to support the remaining dentist in the hospital.
‘We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause for patients.’
Scottish Government funding has been received to allow the senior dental officer post to be replaced, but on a fixed-term basis. The HSCP is now in the process of advertising the vacancy, saying that ‘all available recruitment options’ are being explored.
The HSCP has also secured government funding – a Scottish Dental Access Initiative Grant – for Lochgilphead to help an independent practitioner to open a general dental practice in the area.
The HSCP spokesman explained: ‘The opportunity for an independent practitioner has been advertised widely and the HSCP has received several notes of interest and is now progressing to the next stage in the process, which includes a formal interview and a review of business cases to provide the service.’
The changes follow Scottish Government guidance that routine dental patients should be seen by independent NHS dentists and that the public dental service should concentrate on providing care for those who find it difficult to access dental services for health or other reasons.
The spokesman continued: ‘If an independent practitioner successfully opens a practice, it is the intention that access for full-time working patients will be improved, with some days having longer or early opening hours. The practice will also offer treatments currently not available on the NHS which will widen the range of available treatments such as white fillings in back teeth. All of this will provide an improved dental service by increasing patient access and choice.
‘We would also like to reassure patients that Scottish Government regulations ensure that the dentist in the new practice will be obliged to provide 80 per cent of the dental treatment under the NHS, so any private work would be limited.’