Residents of Durness, a small Scottish village in the country's Highlands, are petitioning NHS Highland, the region's provider of health services, to provide them a local dentist.
Durness is a tiny village that is located near the northernmost part of Scotland's territory on the island of Great Britain. The village's community council surveyed Durness' residents and found that many of them are traveling a minimum of 60 miles to go to the nearest practice. The nearest dental surgery practice is in Lairg, which is 56 miles away. Many residents, however, choose to drive to Inverness, the Highland region's largest city, which is around 100 miles away.
Not surprisingly, the cost of traveling so far is expensive. Just to travel the distance from Durness to Lairg costs about £90 — approximately $120. That estimate does not include the cost of the actual dental procedure.
To complicate matters, it is not possible to use public transit to visit the nearest practices. Therefore, people without their own vehicle have to rely on others to transport them — in these cases, both the driver and the patient have to take off work.
The high cost of trips to the dentist prompted at least one individual to forgo anesthetic during treatment to avoid having to make a return trip. This anecdote horrified Council Chairman Kevin Crowe, who commented, "That isn’t 21st century dentistry, it’s 19th century dentistry."
Durness has not had a dentist for about ten years. In a statement to The Northern Times, NHS Highland noted some reasons that the dental services were withdrawn from the area, including the reasoning that the population of the area could only support part-time dental service and that finding a dentist and staff who were willing to travel during the week to provide these services proved challenging.
NHS Highland did state that their Clinical Dental Director and Dental Service Development Manager would attend the next meeting of the Sutherland District Partnership (Durness is included within the Sutherland District) via video link on December 4th to address the issue.
For more information on Durness' limited access to dental services, read this article from The Northern Times: