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Dental crisis averted

NHS Shetland's new chief dental officer Pippa Arbon

NHS SHETLAND has promised to avert a crisis in dental care in Shetland by maintaining the practice at Lerwick’s St Olaf Street when independent dentist Alan Owen retires in September.

Around 5,000 patients registered with the Lerwick practice faced an uncertain future after Mr Owen announced in April that he would be retiring for health reasons.

He said plans to sell the practice to a Swedish couple had fallen through due to delays in the NHS project to more than double the number of chairs at the Montfield dental surgery.

On Thursday NHS Shetland announced that they will continue to provide “a comprehensive dental service” from the St Olaf Street building, which the health board owns.

Negotiations about the use of equipment at the practice and who will be working there after Mr Owen retires are ongoing.

The health board has appointed dental surgeon Pippa Arbon, who has worked in Shetland for the past three years, as their new dental director following last month’s retirement of Mike Collins.

Director of clinical services Simon Bokor-Ingram said: “I am pleased that Pippa Arbon will be focussing on ensuring a smooth transition for patient care by working closely alongside the St Olaf Street practice up to September when Mr Owen retires.

“We will continue to provide the dental care needs of those people who are registered with the practice out of that building.”

However he added that both NHS and private patients might be treated elsewhere if necessary. “When you need to be seen you might be called for an appointment at Montfield because there is a space there and you can be seen more quickly.”

Discussions with two self employed dentists working at St Olaf Street were ongoing as were discussions about using the equipment based there.

The NHS has been working hard to reduce the waiting list to register with a dentist in Shetland, which stood at around 1,700 last year.

They currently employ a number of locums and are looking to recruit four or five to the islands to boost the service.

Plans to expand the Montfield practice are still being worked on, but cuts in capital funding have meant they have had to be put on hold.

Mr Owen was unavailable for comment on Wednesday afternoon.