An urgent enquiry is required after it is revealed that the Scottish Government has been paying out for the dental treatment of thousands of patients that do not exist.
Reports suggest that 150,000 people on the dental register are either duplicated or deceased. An investigation is under way into the new system of continuous registration for patients in Scotland, which highlighted potential duplicates across the country.
The Scottish Government said it was too early to estimate the total overspend, which officials said came to light when the new system was introduced in April.
Murdo Fraser MSP, shadow cabinet secretary for health and wellbeing, said: ‘We have always suspected that the picture with dentistry was nowhere near as rosy as the SNP liked to paint it, but this is outrageous. Thousands of Scots are desperate for access to an NHS dentist – how must they be feeling when they hear this news?
‘Successive Labour/Lib Dem and SNP administrations have created a huge mess here and people will rightly be very angry. An urgent investigation is the very least we need, and let’s hope it doesn’t throw up any more shocking findings like this.’
Robert Kinloch, chairman of the BDA’s Scottish dental practice committee, expressed fears that the government will try and claim the money back from dentists.
Mr Kinloch said: ‘The BDA raised concerns about the accuracy of patient data last year during the debate about the introduction of lifelong registration, questioning whether the lists of patients held by the NHS in Scotland included duplicated or deceased individuals. If such individuals are included in the published patient figures, there would clearly be implications for their accuracy. We are pleased to see that our concerns have now been investigated.
‘If monies have been incorrectly paid to dentists this will have happened because of problems with the Scottish Government’s data. Dentists will not have been aware that the error was being made and will have invested the money they have received in their surgeries – in premises, staff or meeting increased decontamination costs. We therefore call for the Scottish Government to adopt a pragmatic approach to rectifying its error that recognises both that the fault does not lie with dentists and that clawing back of monies already paid could adversely affect the care of the patients who remain with surgeries.
Robert Donald, an elected member of the Scottish Dental Practice Committee told Dentistry Scotland: ‘No apologies here for forcing through an untried and untested system on a sceptical profession. At least under the tried and tested system of time-limited registration the majority of these errors would have resolved themselves as the duplicates would have dropped off lists automatically.’