THE Lochshell dental clinic in Wick is planning to accept private patients at what has until now been a NHS-only facility.
From April, it is to operate similarly to the clinic in Dunbar Hospital in Thurso which offers a service to both NHS and private patients.
Local health campaigner Bill Fernie thinks it is a backward step.
He said: “If they are now going down that road to deal with a backlog on the waiting list, that is very disappointing. We fought hard to try and get dentistry sorted out here but it now looks as it we are going backwards. “Providing private treatment is fine for the patients that can afford it but what about the people on lower incomes who can’t afford it.
“It looks like if you have the money you can jump the queue.”
A NHS Highland spokesman said the change is in line with a Scottish government directive that has already been successfully introduced elsewhere.
“The option to get private treatment will be there if it is required,” said the spokesman, adding that additional staff would be recruited to provide the service.
See more in Friday's John O'Groat Journal