David Owen has told more than 2,000 NHS patients in Kirkudbright that he will treat them only if they join a private dental plan. He says that NHS dentistry is “in crisis” because of a lack of government funding.
Crawford Alexander, who practices in Newton Stewart, is expected to announce this week that he is going private.
More than 40,000 patients in Fife, the Western Isles, the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and the Highlands have already been forced to leave the NHS since 2003. Some who cannot afford private treament have to travel hundreds of miles to the nearest NHS practice.
Last month Kenneth Barr, a dentist in Stranraer, was criticised by Rhona Brankin, the deputy health minister, after he withdrew from the NHS, leaving hundreds of patients to queue outside his surgery to qualify for his £15-a-month private plan.
The latest defections are a further setback for the Scottish executive, which is under pressure over its handling of dental care.
Dentists say the cost of providing treatment to NHS patients is often more than they are able to reclaim.
Owen defended his decision and said: “NHS dental services in the UK and especially in Scotland are in crisis due to a lack of resources invested in dentistry by central government over a number of years and the closure of the Edinburgh dental hospital 10 years ago, resulting in a shortage of qualified dentists to meet the increasing public demand for treatment.
“In order to continue to provide the good standard of treatment that we and our patients expect and enable suitable investment in staff and up-to-date equipment and materials, we have made the very difficult decision partially to withdraw from the NHS.”
The Scottish executive says that it has taken measures to improve NHS dentistry.
“We are increasing intakes in both schools and providing funding to ensure that we have an additional 200 dentists by 2008,” said an executive spokesman.
A spokesman for the NHS in Dumfries and Galloway said it was liaising with Owen. Pre-school children, children under 18 and in full-time education and existing patients who were exempt from NHS charges would still be treated under the NHS.