Dentist shortage down to Brexit says First Minister
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
The First Minister has blamed a dentistry crisis in North Wales on the effects of Brexit, saying that companies were having trouble recruiting foreign workers.
It came after Darren Millar, MS for Clwyd West, asked Mark Drakeford to step in and sort out “the pickle we’re currently in” with dentistry in his constituency.
He said the closure of the Bupa Dental practice in Colwyn Bay left patients “extremely worried” about how they will get treatment after it closes in February next year.
Four weeks ago Bupa told staff it would be closing practices on Prince’s Drive, Colwyn Bay, and on Cibyn Industrial Estate, Caernarfon, because of “financial pressures”.
It has left around 20 staff under threat and 12,000 NHS patients wondering where to find a dentist.
Mr Millar claimed constituents were being told by nearby practices there is no room and called on Welsh Government and the First Minister to intervene on what he called a “hot topic”.
But First Minister Mark Drakeford suggested it was down to Brexit stopping companies like Bupa recruiting foreign workers.
Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday this week Mr Millar said: “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’d have trained sufficient numbers – and you’ve been responsible for workforce planning in the Welsh NHS 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.
“I’ve asked to meet with your Health Minister and the Chief Dental Officer to discuss the situation in Colwyn Bay, and they’ve refused to accept my request. ”
He called for clarification that “sufficient numbers of dentists” are being trained and called on the FM to “reassure people in Colwyn Bay” they would have access to a dentist when they needed it.
First Minister Mark Drakeford 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.”
Speaking at the time of the announcement Dr Chris Stockport, Betsi Cadwaladr UHB’s executive director of primary and community care, said the board will be commissioning replacement dental services “as early as possible”.
He added: “We are also developing plans to establish dental professional education and development facilities in the locality, which will help to improve the recruitment and retention of dental clinicians and provide further capacity.
“However, because of the timescales required to undertake this work, there will be a short period of time during which access to NHS dental services in North West Wales will, unfortunately, be limited.”
Mr Millar has started a petition calling on Welsh Government and Betsi Cadwaladr to guarantee services for those affected.