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Caithness News Bulletins March 2005

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Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan has hailed the new 150 million funding package for dental services in Scotland, announced today by Deputy Health Minister Rhona Brankin. The cash will be targeted towards children's dental services and the elderly with initiatives to retain qualified dentists working in the NHS.

Mrs Macmillan commented, "I am particularly pleased that NHS dentists will be encouraged to work in rural areas through an increase of 9,000 in the remote area allowance. I am very confident that this will be instrumental in encouraging more dentists to come and work in the Highlands.

"This announcement, of further significant investment in dental services, to be implemented over 3 years, is both welcome and much needed. I am particularly pleased that dental treatment for children is to the fore. Good dental habits, learned early in life, are liable to remain with our youngsters. Scotland's children's love affair with sweet foods is well accepted and needs to be addressed - at present their oral hygiene record is amongst the worst. Scotland is now about to embark on one of the largest toothbrush campaigns for children in Europe. The new programme will see fizzy drinks in schools replaced by milk and water and a more co-ordinated approach to children's dental care introduced - from birth to the teenage years. The target is that every child is Scotland will be registered with a dentist.

The elderly will also benefit with free oral health assessments for those who are 60 and over.

The shortage of NHS dentists, across the Highlands and Islands is another concern. Investment has occurred and projects such as the dental training centre, at Wick, will help tackle the problem and give patients access to dentists, some of whom will hopefully remain in the area when their training is complete. It is intended that the number of dentists in Scotland will increase by over 200 by 2008. Incentives will be offered to dentists to return to Scotland with recruitment also taking place outwith the country. A bursary scheme will also be introduced for dental students who will commit to NHS dentistry on graduation. The Minister's announcement will result in more support for dentists in NHS practice. The use of dental therapists will also be enhanced, red tape cut and better support given to those in NHS dentistry."

Mrs Macmillan added, "This 150 million investment in Scotland's dental services has the potential to bring about a sea-change in the country's dental health. It is to be hugely welcomed and the 150 million investment, contrasts starkly with the SNP's proposed investment of 40-50 million in dental services.

I look forward to the implementation of the various aspects of today's announcement and gradually witnessing an improvement in Scotland's dental health."

Highland MSP John Farquhar Munro and Far North MSP Jamie Stone have welcomed a multi-million pound injection of cash to improve access to NHS dental services.

The Scottish Executive today announced 200million for a range of measures to tackle the problems.

These include increasing the number of dental training places and more cash for dentists who undertake NHS work.

Commenting on the news, Mr Munro said: "Any new investment in NHS dental services must be welcomed.

"Trying to find a dentist taking on NHS patients in the Highlands is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

"I am pleased that the Executive is increasing the number of places for trainee dentists. There is clearly a shortage of dentists across Scotland so this is a sensible decision."

Far North MSP Jamie Stone added: "This is a significant injection of cash which must be targeted to the large number of disenfranchised patients who cannot access affordable dental care.

"We need a multi-agency approach to ensure that these new measures will reach those most in need of treatment. Other health services such as GPs and social workers could help in this regard.

"Although there are a number of very welcome initiatives currently underway which will help make a difference in the longer term, we need to tackle the problems that people face now.

"It is therefore vital that we keep up the pressure for action on this key health issue for the region."