Scottish patient unable to access free prescriptions as NHS dentistry collapses

  • Video report by ITV News reporter Barnaby Papadopulos

A man from Dumfries and Galloway has criticised Scottish Government assertions that prescriptions are free in the country.

Clive West, from Gatehouse of Fleet, said he now has to pay for a dental prescription after his NHS practice switched to private practice in 2021.

As a result, he claims to have gone from paying nothing for both appointments with his dentist and a prescription, to paying around £400 a year.

"We're in the fortunate position that we can afford to do that," he said. "But I do worry about what must be thousands of people in our area who perhaps can't."

Thousands of people across the region are struggling to access dental care on the NHS, with the vast majority of practices unable to accept new NHS patients.

"We were notified by our NHS dental practice in Castle Douglas that they were going to cease doing NHS work and we had to find alternatives," said Mr West.

After signing up to a private insurance plan, he said: "We suddenly went along to the chemist, presented the prescription and the chemist informed us that we had to pay."

Upon contacting his dentist, Mr West says he was told he could no longer get his prescription on the NHS as he was now a private patient - despite the fact that this was not a choice he'd wished to make.

"It was a bit like rubbing salt into the wound," he said.

"Having seen the destruction of NHS dental services in our area, we're now asked not only to pay the dental fees for private care, but we're having to pay for prescriptions on top of that."

The Scottish Government abolished prescription fees in 2011. The issue was raised by First Minister Humza Yousaf in a recent interview with Representing Border, who said "You'll not pay a single penny for your prescriptions, as you'd have to do in England," when asked about differences in tax across the border.

'This isn't what should be happening' - Minister

Responding to Clive West's situation, Minister for Public Health Jenni Minto said her Government recognised that "this isn't what should be happening."

"We are working hard to ensure that we have a sustainable and also improved access to dental services," she said.

"We are doing as much as we can with the health boards in Dumfries and Galloway to improve the situation.

"One of the big things that we brought in on the 1st of November last year was payment reform, which we hope will ensure that we get the sustainability and improvement in dental services across Scotland, including Dumfries and Galloway."

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