PATIENTS at the Bishopmill Dental Centre in Elgin have been left in turmoil after receiving a letter to say they would be de-registered from the practice, due to staff shortages.
In an email letter delivered to patients on Friday, April 29, the practice detailed their difficulty in hiring staff and informed patients that they will be de-registered in 3 months, after unsuccessful attempts from the practice to recruit new dentists.
In the letter, the practice said: “A number of dentists have left the Bishopmill Dental Practice and despite all our efforts, both in the UK and abroad, currently we have been unable to recruit successors to fill these vacancies.
“You are currently registered at the Bishopmill Dental Practice and due to our inability to recruit replacement dentists to work in the practice, we regret to advise you that your dental registration with the dentist named above will cease 3 months from the date of this letter.
“After that date neither that dentist nor any other dentist at the Bishopmill Dental Practice will be able to provide you with dental care and treatment. We will do our best to provide any continuing care outstanding and emergency care to patients who are being de-registered during the notice period.”
The letter continued: “We are extremely sorry that this situation has arisen; the Scottish Government is aware of the current difficulties patients are having accessing NHS dental care and is considering what it might be able to do to address the situation.
“As stated at the outset of this letter, Clyde Munro, the owners of the practice very much regrets having to take this emergency action; we can assure you that we will be making continued efforts to recruit dentists to fill these positions at Bishopmill. We will therefore keep your contact details on file and will contact you if we are in a position to re-register you as a patient and offer you dental treatment.”
It is unclear how many patients the changes will affect but it is evident the impact will be felt across Moray.
NHS Grampian have confirmed that no practices in Moray are currently accepting new NHS patients and although work is underway to improve access with so many residents already having difficulty registering with a dentist prior to this move, it appears the struggle to access NHS dental care will only worsen as an additional slew of patients are left without care.
Jacqui Frederick, Group Clinical Director at Clyde Munro also added: “We recognise the worry and anguish that those facing uncertainty with their NHS registrations will feel. We have liaised with Grampian Health Board throughout this process.
“There is a major, UK-wide shortfall of dentists. This is due to an entire year’s intake being suspended earlier in the pandemic, while many more experienced professionals have taken retirement. This is particularly felt in rural areas like Elgin where it can be more difficult to find dentists.
“Everything we do is about delivering the best possible dental care to patients wherever they are in Scotland. We are committed to NHS dentistry at Bishopmill Dental Centre and to getting our patient registration back to where it was and beyond.
“To support recruitment we have increased our group-wide intake of vocational dental practitioners, and are looking at ways to recruit from abroad. We are also looking to our existing dentists, hygienists and therapists to help out as possible in the meantime.”
The company also added that they are hoping to recruit for two positions following the recent departures of two dentists at the practice and that they will continue to serve more than 12,000 NHS patients in the Elgin area.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead has met with representatives from NHS Grampian to discuss his concerns about dental services in Moray and was informed that the NHS are currently unable to even add new patients to the waiting list for dental care.
Mr Lochhead said: “In recent weeks I’ve been contacted by a number of constituents who have been unable to register with NHS dentists in Moray. Some have told me that they have been offered alternative access in Highland or Aberdeenshire which is unacceptable. In the past few days, the situation appears to have escalated with patients of Bishopmill Dental Centre being deregistered due to staffing issues.
“Many will remember the challenging situation we faced in Moray over ten years ago, when accessing a NHS dentist was incredibly difficult. As MSP for Moray I worked hard alongside NHS Grampian to ensure improved access for all residents of Moray to dental services and it is seriously concerning that once again this is a problem locally.
“I’ve urged NHS Grampian to ensure dental services in Moray is a priority for them to will be meeting with the Chief Executive again soon to discuss this further.”
Representatives from NHS Grampian have yet to comment on the issue.