asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the serious position in regard to dental services on the Island of Islay; and if he will give powers to executive councils, similar to those already given in regard to medical officers, to enable them to provide residential accommodation for dental officers practising under the National Health Service Act.
I am aware that dental treatment in Islay is provided by one dentist who visits the island for about one week every three months. As regards the latter part of the Question, the powers of executive councils could not be extended in this way without legislation which my right hon. Friend could not promise to promote, but the Department are continuing to explore all possible ways of improving the dental treatment for the people of Islay.
Does not the hon. Lady agree that this is a very serious situation in an island of some 4,000 inhabitants? A dental officer visits that island for only one week in three months. Could she not persuade her right hon. Friend to give powers to the medical authority or the county council to obtain accommodation for a dentist? That is all that is necessary. If accommodation were provided, the dentist would be there.
We are aware of the seriousness of this position and next week, or the week following, one of the officers from the Department is going to Islay to discuss the question of accommodation there that has been promised. When he is there, he will have full consultations with the council and those responsible. I thank the hon. and gallant Member for his efforts in this matter. We appreciate them very much indeed.
Will the hon. Lady bear in mind that the problem of insufficient dental services affects other islands besides Islay—some of which have been drawn to her attention—and, if she is able to assist in this matter, will she extend her assistance to these islands?
I should like to draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the special powers which the councils in the Highlands and Islands have to make special payments.