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The most significant challenge to the provision of sustainable and improved primary care dental services in rural areas is the recruitment and retention of dentists and their support staff i.e. dental hygienists/therapists, dental nurses, receptionists. Clinical facilities, career development opportunities and working conditions are all factors in successful recruitment. Within the Lochshell Dental Clinic, Caithness now has a facility, which provides a modern clinical environment, with state of the art equipment and a facility that offers dentists in a rural area a supportive environment as an alternative to the more usual single handed practice.
It is however essential that NHS Highland continues to pursue innovative approaches to recruitment if success is to be ensured. One example of such an approach has been the collaborative working with NHS Education Scotland to introduce 2 Rural Fellow/Salaried General Dental Practitioner posts to Caithness. These posts offer dentists the opportunity to combine study for a MSc with the delivery of service in the local area. NHS Highland also participated in the Scottish Executive led Polish recruitment initiative. As a consequence Marek Kopcuich took up post in September 2006 and is to practice in the new clinic on a full time basis offering patients routine care and registration.
Recognising the competitive nature of dental recruitment and the limited exposure of undergraduate dentists to rural areas such as Caithness, NHS Highland has committed to providing training placements for dental graduates undergoing vocational training. There will be 2 training placements for the next tranche of graduates whom start training in August 2007. Rob Nicol and Keith Finn, Senior Dentists with the Caithness team, have undertaken Training for Trainers to enable them to provide the essential support and guidance for the vocational trainees.
What does the opening of the new clinic mean for patients? Already 300 patients from the waiting list for NHS registration have been offered the opportunity to register with the clinic. The facility for patients assessed on clinical grounds, as requiring fast tracked into routine care will be maintained. Further patients from the waiting list will be offered the same opportunity over the coming 18months with a maximum of 2,200 patients being registered with the clinic. Successful recruitment of additional dentists will enable this number to increase.
Any person seeking NHS dental registration should not contact the Lochshell Clinic directly but instead phone the NHS Highland Dental Helpline on Tel 0845 6442271. Patients will be allocated to the clinic only via the Helpline.
It is recognised that the Lochshell Clinic will not provide all of the services required to meet the needs of the local population. Particular consideration of the service needs of school children and communities in North West Sutherland will require to be undertaken with stakeholders. In addition NHS Highland is continuing to encourage dentists seeking to set up new NHS dental practices to locate within the Caithness area.
To Get Listed For A
He will unveil a plaque marking the opening of the Lochshell Dental Clinic in Wick after meeting NHS Highland Dental Clinical Manager Cathy Lush, and Rob Nicol, Senior Dentist, Caithness Dental Team, as well as dentists and dental nurses working at the practice.
The new clinic has been funded through the Scottish Executive Health Departmentís, Primary & Community Care Modernisation programme.
It is one of the key elements of NHS Highlands Dental Property Strategy, which aims to provide sustainable dental services to local communities through a network of multiple surgery clinics.
Later in the day, at 2:30pm, the Minister will open the extended Culloden Dental Clinic in Inverness.
The new developments in Wick and Culloden will provide much needed local access to NHS dentistry services.