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RHODA GRANT: Suffering the pain over lack of NHS dentist services


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Holyrood Notebook by Rhoda Grant

The We WANT Festival hosted a superb events, talks and workshops on key issues.
The We WANT Festival hosted a superb events, talks and workshops on key issues.

IN last month’s column I mentioned that the Scottish Government health secretary was planning to meet representatives from CHAT (Caithness Health Action team) about their concerns over maternity services. Mr Yousaf visited Raigmore Hospital in Inverness on Monday, March 21 promising to listen to mothers’ experiences throughout the region. However, we still await news of a meeting!

The cabinet secretary needs to consider and take on the views of the community across the Highlands to adequately address the needs of mothers and babies and so far the voices of those in Caithness have largely been ignored. I wrote to him asking if I could be a part of this visit – I am still waiting with bated breath.

  • As many of you will know, there are limited opportunities for NHS dental registration throughout the Highlands. Covid, funding and recruitment are all pressure points for the NHS, however, the Scottish Government’s failure to support NHS dentistry has pushed access to treatment and care further away. While Covid has certainly had an adverse impact on primary dental care, access to NHS dentistry had been suffering prior to the pandemic.

More and more are seeking services and treatment privately, however, many folk in the Highlands and Islands do not even have that option as dental services are just not available. The consistent lack of planning from this Scottish Government have left NHS boards struggling to cope and provide adequate care.

NHS Highland have assured me that should any unregistered patients require emergency dental treatment they should contact the NHS Highland Dental Helpline on 0800 1412362 or NHS24 on 111.

  • I have been contacted by a number of constituents who have struggled to meet the costs of travelling to and from hospital appointments. As cuts are made to NHS services throughout the region it has forced people to travel, often to Inverness, for treatment and care. In the Highlands and Islands, the Patient Travel Scheme was set up to recognise the expense involved in travelling long distances to and from hospital.

The scheme is intended to assist with the cost of fuel and based upon the HMRC Fuel Advisory Rate, currently set at 15p per mile from April 1, 2022. NHS Highland are proposing a further temporary 2p per mile increase in reimbursement on top of the 15p to assist with increased fuel costs until June. While this is welcome news, it is sad that cuts to local services has led to situations where people have to travel further afield for treatment and care and the lack of public transport rules that out as an option.

  • Finally, a big congratulations to Thurso Development Trust for hosting the We WANT Festival on the April 24-30. The festival hosted a number of superb events, talks and workshops on key issues including endometriosis, cancer and menopause. I heard they also had a refreshing morning dip in the sea at 7am! Definitely one for the brave! I look forward to hearing about future planned events.
  • Don’t forget to vote! Yes, it is that time once again. Council elections are fast approaching and I urge anyone reading this column to look out for key information on candidates standing. Remember councils look after local roads, schools and many other issues. I am delighted that my friend and colleague Neil MacDonald is standing again for Wick and East Caithness, I wish him all the best. It is important we have the right people to do the job.
Rhoda Grant wants Humza Yousaf to include her in his visit to Caithness.
Rhoda Grant wants Humza Yousaf to include her in his visit to Caithness.
  • Rhoda Grant is a Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands.

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