Tooth delay: Year-long waits in the Hebrides after last full-time dentist retires

Islay and Jura currently served by one part-time dentist

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The Independent Online

In need of a root canal? Then it may be wise to avoid travelling to Islay or Jura. The two Scottish islands might have some of the UK’s finest scenery, not to mention some of the best single malts, but residents who want to see a dentist are reportedly facing waits of up to a year to have their teeth checked.

The only full-time dentist serving the pair of Hebridean islands retired a year ago, leaving the responsibility of examining the teeth of almost 3,500 people with just one part-timer. The current dentist only works four days a week and has consequently been forced to prioritise children and those in extreme pain.

There have been 16 expressions of interest in the vacant full-time job, but so far nobody has taken up the position, with the poor state of dental facilities on Islay thought to be discouraging candidates. Dental care is currently provided from a portable cabin in the car park of Islay Hospital in Bowmore.

“The waiting room is your car,” local resident and retired GP Pat McGrann told the BBC. “The receptionist has to come out and get you. A man and wife team took on the job in 1998 on the understanding that facilities would be upgraded, but that never happened.”

Residents of Islay and Jura who need to see a dentist must take the ferry to Tarbert or Lochgilphead on the mainland. Such is the demand for check-ups that one dental practice in Paisley – which is a five-hour journey away – has started advertising in the local newspaper.

A spokesperson for NHS Highland said: “Dental services on Islay are provided from a well-resourced facility that meets all the necessary infection control requirements.

“At the same time however we do recognise that the actual building itself is not ideal and we have been investigating the possibility of providing these services from within the hospital building.”

Concern is also growing in the Outer Hebrides that the merger of three dental surgeries could leave patients with 70-mile round trips for appointments. NHS Western Isles is to consult islanders on the possible closure of the facilities at Lochmaddy on North Uist, Liniclate on Benbecula and Lochboisdale on South Uist, according to The Herald.

A spokeswoman for NHS Western Isles said the health board was considering replacing the surgeries, but insisted that this would “reduce professional isolation, improve recruitment and retention, reduce multiple running costs and the costs of instruments, and provide enhanced opportunities for staff development and training”.

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