Posted: Thu 10th Dec 2020

Welsh Government to blame for North Wales dentist shortage, claims Clwyd West MS

North Wales news and information

The Welsh Government should carry the blame for a shortage of dentists in North Wales, the Senedd Member for Clwyd West.

Conservative MS Darren Millar raised the issue in the Senedd this week after it was recently announced that two dental practices in the region were set to be closed, impacting on thousands of patients.

Last week, First Minister Mark Drakeford said Brexit had partly caused the problem, with almost a fifth of staff coming from the EU.

But during a Senedd plenary session on Tuesday, Mr Millar pointed the finger closer to home.

Addressing the First Minister, he said: “The issue of dentistry is a very hot topic in the Clwyd West constituency at the moment as a result of an announcement by Bupa Dental Care UK that they’re going to be closing their clinic in Colwyn Bay.

“That’s going to affect around 12,000 people in my constituency, and they’ve been advised by the local health board that they should seek to register with other NHS dentists in the north Wales area.

“Having contacted those dentists, they’re told that they’re not taking on extra patients.

“The reality is that you should have been training more dentists over the past decade; you shouldn’t be having to rely on dentists coming in from overseas.

“If we had trained sufficient numbers—and you’ve been responsible for workforce planning for the past 20 years—then we wouldn’t be in the pickle that we’re currently in, with a shortage of dentists across Wales.”

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has revealed plans to create a new dental training unit in Bangor in response to difficulties recruiting and retaining dentists in North Wales.

The training unit will support dentists from their foundation year right through to speciality level, whilst providing existing North Wales dentists with opportunities to improve their skills without having to leave the area.

Although a location for the proposed facility has not yet been identified, it is expected to consist of lecture and seminar rooms, hands on teaching facilities and clinical space.

Responding to Mr Millar’s comments, Mr Drakeford stuck to his guns in his criticism of Brexit and its implications.

He said: “Well, the pickle we’re in, as the member put it, is because of the advice that he and people like him gave to people in Wales that we would leave the European Union and they’d see no disadvantages at all in their lives.

“And yet what they’re finding out is that his advice and the advice of people in his party has led to the position that they are facing in Colwyn Bay today, where a large corporate body, previously able to provide those services, is no longer able to attract the staff that are needed.”

He continued: “I disagree with what Darren Millar said about the future for dentistry.

“The future is not in relying entirely on more dentists—it is broadening the dental profession, it is making better use of other members of the dental team, and making sure that those high-volume activities that dentists need to be carried out can be carried out by people who are trained to do so, but do not need the very long training and the very scarce expertise that dentists themselves represent.”

The issue of a shortage of available dentists was also raised by Ynys Mon’s Rhun ap Iorwerth.

The Plaid Cymru MS said: “I have to say that I’m concerned that there’s been a lack of planning in dentistry and ensuring that that service is sustainable for the future.

“I’m truly concerned about the position of dentistry in my constituency.

“The closure of private dental surgeries on the mainland recently has further exacerbated the problems people have in registering with and finding a dentist that does NHS work.

“The steps that I’ve taken along with a dentist in Anglesey to increase capacity have faced one barrier after the next, with us having already managed to attract two dentists in, but failing to get the board to increase the contract.

“In addition to that, I have huge concerns about what’s happening to specialist dental services at Ysbyty Gwynedd, with the loss of services and a failure to recruit making me think that there is a plan to downgrade services.”

Mr Drakeford said he agreed with the MS about the problems facing patients in accessing dental care.

He said he would look to provide more information about the steps that the region’s health board is taking to try and address the issue.

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