Largs dentist surgeries have extensive waiting lists according to patients who have tried to move practices in recent weeks - with fears growing that NHS dentistry is in doubt nationwide.

Fairlie resident Janie Crawford has outlined her concerns over accessing an NHS dentist, while a number of other patients have also contacted the News voicing their worries regarding the situation.

Her dentist at Largs Dental Surgery is going private later this year, an issue which has becoming more common all over Scotland, and Janie believes pressure needs to be put on politicians in order to save NHS Dentistry as a whole from being privatised.

As recently reported, dentists Isabel Saunderson and Sheryl Shankland will continue to see NHS patients at Largs Dental Surgery, with Erin McBride leaving the practice in May. Sheryl Shankland is currently on maternity leave until early next year. 

Dentist Alison McGregor, revealed that from September 5, she would “only see adult patients on an independent membership basis” - but other dentists in the practice will continue to see NHS patients.

Janie has told the News of her experience in finding a new NHS dentist, and said: "The Aitken Street practice is not taking on NHS patients at all, but the Wilson Street practice (Largs Dental Care) has at least 600 on their waiting list and I shall have to wait around five or six months before they can contact me and they have very kindly added me to their list.

"I am very passionate about our NHS and would very much like to retain it or at least with some reform to make it functional for our modern society.

"However, I fear we are heading very much towards privatisation.

"We need to bring this to the forefront, and to the attention of our MPs, letting them understand what our priorities really are for the next election."

The matter was also aired at Largs Community Council, with members voicing concern about the situation.

Janie has now written to Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson who '"understands her frustration".

Largs and Millport Weekly News: MSP Kenneth Gibson says he understands frustration over difficulties in accessing an NHS Dentist MSP Kenneth Gibson says he understands frustration over difficulties in accessing an NHS Dentist (Image: Kenneth Gibson MSP)

He pointed out that high street dentists run private businesses. Most combine private work NHS work, and are free to decide to stop carrying out NHS treatments and to focus their work on private clients.

Dental treatment is not free at the point of use as GP services are, and most NHS patients pay 80 per cent of the cost of treatment, up to a maximum of £384 per course of treatment, unless they are eligible for free treatment.

Dentists are paid a fee for every item of NHS work they carry out, and the NHS prescribes the materials that can be used.

Kenneth pointed out that the NHS board is under no statutory duty to ensure that there are an adequate number of dentists providing NHS treatment.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government recognises the challenges facing the sector and is working on the introduction of national payment reform with a new, modernised system that will provide NHS dental teams with greater clinical discretion, and transparency for NHS patients. 

"They have put in place tailored solutions for health board areas where dental access is particularly challenging by expanding Scottish Dental Access Initiative grants to help with setting up new practices, or extend existing practices. 

“Scottish Ministers have also made available an enhanced recruitment and retention allowance of up to £37,500 over three years. The new policy prospectus that the Scottish Government set out on April 18 committed to providing sustained and improved equitable national access to national health service dentistry by 2026. 

"This reaffirms the commitment to the sector and to patients in all parts of Scotland.

“Having already removed dental charges for all patients under 26, the Scottish Government is committed to making it free for everyone in Scotland by the end of this parliamentary term. Around 600,000 young Scots will now receive free dental care. This is the first step in the Scottish Government’s plans to scrap dental charges for everyone in Scotland. 

"Initial plans only involved removing charges from those aged 18-26 from care-experienced backgrounds within the first 100 days of this Scottish Government. However, the SNP in Government ramped up its ambition and delivered for Scotland’s young people with an additional investment of £7.5 million – supporting the dental sector to recover, and expanding the scrapping of dental charges well ahead of schedule."

Kenneth added that he would continue to press for increased resources for dentists and dental practices.

The News has asked Largs Dental Care and Largs Dental Suite regarding whether they are taking on board NHS patients, and for current waiting list numbers, but didn't receive a response.

National newspapers have reported that top dentists have warned about the future of their NHS services after it was found that four out of five dentist practices are planning on reducing their NHS service in the next year.

The British Dental Association has warned the future of NHS dentistry in Scotland is under threat, and 'action must be high on the agenda for the  first minister', as a survey carried out by the organisation found more than half of Scottish dentists have already reduced the amount of NHS work they undertake.