Dental provision in Lewis is so inadequate it is now a scandal, according to organisers of a petition in Stornoway.
They say: “The position is that since 2014 residents of Lewis who are not already registered here as NHS dentistry patients are not allowed to register.
“That is an absolute scandal and affects thousands of residents.”
The only way to get treated, say the petition organisers, is ‘to be put on a waiting list, which we may reach the top of in perhaps 12 months' time if enough people leave the island or pass away’.
They add: “Our only other option is to travel to the mainland.
“For those with employment or family responsibilities that is not always so easy, and for many it would require an overnight stay in Inverness.”
The dental crisis comes after a brand new £4.7 million dental centre was opened in the grounds of Western Isles Hospital in 2011.
NHS Western Isles said it acknowledged the current capacity issues in relation to dental service provision on Lewis, and remained steadfast in its resolve ‘to establish an efficient and effective model to meet current and future demands’.
Previously, Lewis had two independent General Dental Practitioners (GDPs).
Said a spokesperson for NHS Western Isles: “Our peak staffing reached 10 Whole Time Equivalent dentists in 2013/14 and we had completely eliminated all wait lists.
“In 2014 the two GDPs moved on, and the recruited replacement only stayed with us for six months.
“Since then a further three dentists have moved away and one is on extended leave therefore we are currently operating with 5.8 WTE dentists.
“All dentists are running lists of 2000 to 2500, which for safety reasons cannot be increased.
“We do currently register special needs groups.”
The spokesperson said that resource as deployed across the islands was currently under active review to improve the distribution, quality, sustainability and access to services.
Lewis and Harris has one dentist currently for every 3,138 population, while the Uists and Benbecula have one dentist for every 1,615 population
Barra has one dentist for 1,160 population.
Added the spokesperson: “Proposals have been developed to re design the service but unfortunately have not yet been agreed.
“Planning is at an advanced stage for a three-dentist practice on Lewis which if successful could take 6000 patients by Sept/ October 2017.”