- Dentists urge action, as patients face 70 mile drive for access
- Staff with high NHS commitment paying the price in low morale
A recruitment crisis for NHS dentists is imminent, and set to deepen access problems across England, according to new data from the British Dental Association (BDA).
Survey evidence suggests over two thirds (68%) of NHS practices in England who attempted to recruit in the last year struggled to fill vacancies. Half (50%) of the NHS practices who attempted recruitment reported issues in the previous year.
Figures reflect widespread disillusionment with England's unreformed NHS dental system, with levels of NHS commitment now a leading driver of low morale and motivation. Those with the highest levels of NHS work (over 75% NHS work as opposed to private) appeared more than twice as likely (39%) to report job dissatisfaction than those with lighter commitments (16%).
In the latest sign of emerging crisis Plymouth's Director of Public Health, was instructed by councillors the week to write to NHS England requesting "urgent local action to improve access to NHS Dentists" amid 9,000 long waiting lists fuelled by staff shortages and patients facing a 70 mile journey for treatment. Recent reports for both the Times and BBC have highlighted access problems across England, with half of practices across England unable to take new NHS patients.
The BDA has previously reported that 58% of NHS dentists say they are now planning to leave the service in the next 5 years. Dentist leaders say that failure to reform the target-driven system in England and Wales, and the 35% real-terms fall in practitioner incomes continue to threaten retention, recruitment and the long term sustainability of the service. Latest workforce statistics have shown the first year on year decline in workforce numbers in a generation.
BDA Vice Chair Eddie Crouch said:
"When patients are struggling to get access government should not be punishing dentists for commitment to the NHS.
"It is a damning indictment of current policy that the dentists who go over and above with NHS care are now paying the price in low morale. The constant treadmill of targets and pay cuts mean something has to give, and services cannot be maintained when practices are unable to fill vacancies.
"Failure to act is already leaving millions of patients across the country in limbo. We look to ministers to take responsibility and show dedicated health professionals that NHS care is not an unattractive option."
Dentists’ pay: What we do for you
Each year we use our evidence to fight for a fairer pay for associates, practice owners, community dentists (PDS in Scotland), and we call for pay parity for dental clinical academics.
We work across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and provide evidence to the Governments on your behalf.
We want an end to the public sector pay cap for doctors and dentists – we believe the continued decline in income for dentists is affecting not just the profession, but the access to care dentists can provide for patients