A dental practice in Scotland has announced it will stop treating approximately 200 children on the NHS.
The Bridgend Dental Care Centre in Thurso has written to 650 parents and guardians offering them places as private patients.
A spokeswoman for the local health board (LHB), NHS Highland, said: ‘It is extremely disappointing that the practice has taken this action. In the absence of alternative access with high street dentists, NHS Highland will consider how its dental teams within Caithness will ensure access to dental care for these children.’
Highlands and Islands MSP Rob Gibson said the decision could damage the oral health of the children. He said the move exacerbated a situation that has 6,000 people from Caithness already on the waiting list for an NHS dentist.
Mr Gibson alleged that practice owner John Murray decided to end his children-only contract because of his own financial interests.
Mr Murray, however, has strongly denied the allegations. He specialises in implant dentistry and has insisted that the move was prompted by a desire to provide patients with better care.
Mr Murray, who works throughout Scotland, also claimed that the practice would actually lose money as a result of the decision.
He said: ‘I have been involved in private practice for many years with no NHS involvement. We took the business on a year ago as a private practice with around 200 children still receiving NHS treatment.
‘There were two dentists primarily responsible for providing that care but they have left. We are always looking to up our game – we have invested a fortune in the practice.’
He stressed that it was ‘unfair’ and ‘hypocritical’ to provide specialist care for adults while depriving children, and said that he wished to offer high-end dentistry to both.