In the midst of an uncertain dental market struggling to fill vacancies, recruitment agencies argue they are becoming increasingly indispensable in providing a vital service that brings together the best dental professionals with the best practices.
Dentists seeking a new position and practices hunting for the right people to fill roles are both turning to recruitment agencies as much as they ever have, and the agencies involved in matching both sides are experiencing high demand for their services.
Help in navigating the market is very much needed with some areas struggling to fill roles and the public increasingly hitting a brick wall when it comes to finding a place as a NHS patient.
A survey1 carried out by the BDA and published in March 2019 found that 75% of NHS dental practice owners in England were finding it difficult to fill vacancies in 2018, rising to 84% among those with the highest NHS commitments.
These figures have risen in recent years – up from 50% in 2016 and prompted BDA Vice Chair Eddie Crouch to say: ‘The facts are if NHS practices can't fill vacancies then we can't treat NHS patients. ‘Recruitment and retention are key, and a cash-strapped system that puts government targets ahead of patient care is now squeezing the workforce on both sides.’
In addition, recent research2 published in the BDJ in June 2019 showed that in Wales, only 15.5% of practices were accepting new NHS dental patients in 2017-18.
Given these pressures, recruitment agencies are ready to help. Paul Holborn, director at Blue Sky People, says: ‘Recruitment remains challenging. We are finding that outlying practices in areas outside of the major towns/cities are still finding it difficult to attract the kind of quality of dentists that they would like. ‘Practices delivering NHS dentistry are constrained by the value of the NHS dental contract. ‘We are finding that we constantly get a good volume of client inquiries with practices that are looking to recruit who perhaps advertised or tried to recruit directly and have been unsuccessful.’
Blue Sky People’s services are very much in demand, he adds, saying: ‘We take our job seriously and are working with high quality practices. We want to have a good working relationship with them and understand what they are selling in terms of career development opportunity and then take that to market and find the most appropriately qualified dentist.
‘We are not out to work with every single dental practice in the UK because we want to do right by the candidates as well. We like to try and focus on quality of delivery and are looking to work with practices that are able to offer a quality opportunity for clinicians to help them advance their careers.’
An emerging trend in the dental profession is the changing needs of dentists and the kind of work they are seeking – something that agencies are sensitive to and have had to adapt their approach to accommodate.
Kelly Saxby, managing director of Green Apple Dental Recruitment, says: ‘The recruitment market is very busy and demand for dentists feels higher than it’s been.
‘One of the things that stands out for us is that a lot of people want more of a work/life balance. It’s a stressful job. Many dentists don’t want to work full-time as much now.
‘That effectively turns every one position into two, doubling the amount of vacancies you can have. This trend of more people wanting to work part-time is putting more demand on practices.
‘It’s not a terrible trend. In an industry that can be stressful, being able to find a way to create work-life balance for your personal fulfilment becomes all the more important.’
The current market does not make recruitment easy, she says, adding: ‘Practices are finding it more difficult than they have in past years to fill vacancies, but we are still filling posts and still placing the same amount, if not more, dentists into roles. Practices need to consider the means in which they are searching and that’s where using an agency can be a great benefit.’
Certain dental professionals are particularly in demand across the market, as Holborn explains: ‘Where we are recruiting specialists, we are finding endodontists are really difficult to recruit. There is also quite a lot of movement in the orthodontic market at the minute with the current tendering process that is going on.’
Demand is particularly high for general dentists willing to work in mixed NHS and private practices, says Saxby, adding: ‘We are being asked for more dentists that can offer a greater variety of special interests. We are also finding that a lot of candidates want to do postgraduate courses or special interest courses or a masters. They want to develop their skills.’
Growth in the use of recruitment agencies by private dental practices has been noted by some agencies.
Holborn says: ‘We are working with a larger number of private practices now that are looking to grow and recruit either specialists or highly skilled clinicians with great interpersonal skills. They want us to bear the brunt of the recruitment process.
‘Demand for us with our NHS client base remains high but we are doing a lot of work with private practices at the moment.’
Green Apple Dental has been specialising in dentist recruitment for over nine years, says Saxby, but adds: ‘We adapt to what practices want. Due to the growing demand in the market, we are currently expanding our dentist recruitment team and will be looking to offer dental hygienists and therapist recruitment in the next 12 months.’
Robert Coveney, a 26-year-old dentist based in Essex, who qualified in 2016, is a firm believer in just how helpful a recruitment agency can be in finding a good post after using the services of Green Apple Dental Recruitment.
‘I’m still at my FD practice which is in Benfleet, Essex where I do three days a week as an associate and the other days I do locum work around Essex and Kent,’ he says.
‘Just over a year ago, I had days spare and heard about locum posts but the work was sporadic. So I thought why not try an agency. A friend recommended Green Apple. I spoke to Kelly Saxby – its owner. It’s the best agency I’ve ever used. They actually talk to you. I found that a lot of the other agencies I’ve used in the past are not really interested in knowing who you are – they just want to get you in and out.
‘With Green Apple, Kelly called on a weekend and asked what I was looking for and to tell her everything. ‘We talk regularly and she calls me to check that I am happy and if there is anything I need. She did negotiate me a pay rise at one point, which was fabulous. They have a lot of practices that they have worked with for a long time so they can give you really honest advice about what to expect and what they are like.
‘It’s that expertise of knowing the market and the practices on a personal scale that is so good. Using a recruitment agency is such an easy way to get into work.’
Benefits of agencies
The various benefits of using a recruitment agency are clear, argues Saxby, saying: ‘For dental professionals, we effectively become your personal assistant. We have a high level of knowledge about the job market and will have a variety of options for you.
‘We can offer you objective opinions, up-to-date information and guidance about the marketplace which in turn, streamlines the whole process. We can organise your diary, help you maximise your interviews, travel time and the whole process including negotiating contracts and making sure paperwork is sorted out.
‘For practices, we can talk to you about what the marketplace is like in your area and help make sure you are making your job as competitive as possible.’
Expertise is key, agrees Holborn, saying: ‘From a practice perspective, it’s about valuing time. We go out and deliver a service at our own cost and risk. Clients, effectively, only pay a finders’ fee if we are successful in finding the right candidate.
‘We rely on advertising and have a database of around 19,000 dental professionals that we have engaged with over the last 15 years. That means we have access to potentially almost 20,000 professionals who might not necessarily be on the internet day to day looking for an opportunity.
‘For candidates, we present them with opportunities that they might not otherwise find themselves because they are not being advertised.’
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