Yousaf branded ‘incompetent’ over Scottish Government’s record on dentistry

Health Secretary and would-be first minister Humza Yousaf has been branded “incompetent” by Labour leader Anas Sarwar, as he told MSPs no dentists are taking on new NHS patients in more than a quarter of health boards.

Mr Sarwar said only one in five dental practices in Scotland is allowing new NHS patients to register.

He said data obtained using freedom of information legislation shows that in four of Scotland’s 14 NHS board areas, “zero practices are taking on new patients”.

As a result, he described Mr Yousaf – one of three candidates running to be SNP leader and the new Scottish first minister – as “incompetent and out of his depth”.

Anas Sarwar
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar condemned the record of SNP leadership candidate Humza Yousaf (PA)

Raising the issue at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Sarwar said: “Surely even Nicola Sturgeon can see Scotland has no confidence in him and he is not up to the top job?”

He claimed Mr Yousaf is “presiding over chaos in Scotland’s NHS”, and said: “Rather than confronting the NHS crisis we have an SNP talking to themselves about themselves.”

The attack came as SNP members across Scotland are voting to decide who the party’s next leader should be, with the Health Secretary up against Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and former Scottish Government minister Ash Regan for the position.

Mr Sarwar, who was a dentist before becoming an elected politician, told MSPs: “I’ve worked in our NHS, I was a dentist in Paisley, and I saw first-hand the impact of this Government’s failures on the poorest communities in our country.”

He said ministers are “not doing enough to address the NHS crisis”, as he pressed Ms Sturgeon on dental services.

His questions came as the British Dental Association revealed more than half of practices in Scotland have reduced NHS work since lockdown – with 83% planning on scaling this back further in the coming year.

Ms Sturgeon said: “NHS dentistry, of course is under pressure, all parts of the NHS are under pressure.”

But she said 95% of the Scottish population is registered with an NHS dentist – compared to just over a third of adults and less than half of children in England.

The First Minister continued: “We have in Scotland 57 dentists per 100,000 of our population providing NHS dental services, that compares with just 43 per 100,000 south of the border.”

Ms Sturgeon also cited statistics showing children’s oral health is improving, saying an inspection programme in 2002 had shown 45% of primary one children had no obvious decay – with this having risen to 73% by 2021-22.

“That is the improvement we are seeing in child oral health,” the First Minister said.

“Yes there are challenges but we continue to support the dental profession to meet those challenges head on.”