South Uist patients face 60-mile round trip to dentist

NHS Western Isles.

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South Uist residents requiring dental work face a 60-mile round trip after the health board deemed Lochboisdale Dental Clinic a lost cause.

NHS Western Isles said the decision to close the Lochboisdale clinic was owing to a range of failings identified during a recent environmental audit by its infection prevention and control team.

The move has been met with anger among local residents who now have to travel as far as Liniclate for treatment.  The motive behind the decision has also been widely questioned.

Callum MacMillan, an SNP candidate for Barra, Vatersay, Eriskay and South Uist in the forthcoming council elections, claimed: ‘This has clearly been done to coincide with the current plans for the dental hub in Benbecula. These have been rejected by communities in Uist at every opportunity, yet officials in Stornoway continue to persist with them.

‘If the building is genuinely unfit for purpose then why has it been allowed to operate in this condition for the last three years? Why was so little notification given to staff or patients? Why are patients now being expected to take round trips of up to 60 miles just to see a dentist?

‘There are a huge number of unanswered questions the health board needs to address.’

Donald Manford, also a council election candidate, decribed the situation as a stark illustration of what is currently wrong with the provision of public services the length of the Western Isles and said that communities need to be at the forefront of decision making; they should not be viewed as obstacles to be sidestepped.

He added: ‘Ignoring community needs insults locality group objectives and disregards grassroots-up requirements, bringing Integrated Joint Board principles into disrepute.’

A spokesperson from NHS Western Isles refuted the claim that needs had been ignored, saying that money had been earmarked for the clinic years ago.  The original plan was to build a second surgery but assessments carried out ahead of the project highlighted that no amount of spending could bring it up to modern required standards.

She added: ‘Further work on Lochboisdale was therefore halted pending a full review of dental service delivery in the Uists, as investment and modernisation had also been planned for the Uist and Barra Hospital. In the case of Lochboisdale, even if the board had spent substantial sums to refurbish the existing building it would still not have met all the modern standards for a dental facility as there is physically not enough space in the building. The risk associated with the building has now, following further assessment, passed the point of being assessed as manageable.

‘All school children are and will continue to be treated at Liniclate Dental Clinic and pre-school children also attending are always accompanied. Our experience is also that frail elderly patients are invariably accompanied. Some patients will have to travel further and some less so, although these distances are no more than in other parts of Lewis and Harris. We will be alert as we progress to difficulties that may arise and will examine specific cases to see how we might alleviate any problems. Our current dental team will continue to contribute to the services locally.’