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NHS dentistry facing mass exodus of dentists

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NHS dentistry is facing a potential mass exodus, with 86% of dentists looking to leave in the next five years.

That’s according to Practice Plan’s 2018 NHS Confidence Monitor report, which asked 495 dentists about their levels of happiness within NHS dentistry.

‘The UDA contract is bad for patients and bad for dentistry,’ Joe Hendron, practising dentist, said of the figures.

‘The capped budget for dentistry restricts career progression and makes it more difficult for associates to become practice owners.

‘As does the recent increase in control of practices by corporate businesses.

‘This is challenging the retention of dentists in the profession.

‘Currently the NHS contract reform project does not provide a sound business model.

‘Much more thought needs to be given if it is to be successful.’

Leaving dentistry

Of those respondents to the 2018 survey looking to leave the profession, almost a quarter (24%) said they were hoping to change their career.

More than a quarter (28%) were looking to retire from dentistry, whilst 48% were planning a move to private dentistry.

‘The NHS dental system not being fit for purpose is the number one reason stressing dentists and their teams,’ said dentist Tony Kilcoyne

‘It seems 28% of our profession are considering early retirement, with another 24% actively seeking to leave the dental profession.

‘Nobody can doubt this is a tragic waste of talent and bad for patients and society generally.

‘It is time those in power started acting preventively and responsibly to improve the NHS systems and professional satisfaction, instead of continual spin and “kicking that can” down the road as conditions worsen around them.’

Significant decline

Recent reports from Laingbuisson show new recruits in dentistry has fallen by a fifth in the last two years.

The fall comes with real terms decline in spending on NHS dentistry by 1.2% in the last year.

There is also a significant decline in the number of UDAs completed too.

‘The recruitment and retention issues within NHS dentistry are a potentially toxic combination,’ Nigel Jones, sales and marketing director of Practice Plan, said.

‘Surveys, reports and anecdotes all consistently point towards the same thing.

‘The need for real positive change that’s driven by the profession in order to avoid a workforce crisis.

‘Of course, change is on the horizon with the reformed contract roll-out in 2020.

‘But it’s fair to say that, after years of testing the two prototypes, there is still a sense of uncertainty about how exactly reform will happen and what impact it will have.

‘The dental profession is adept at working to the best of their ability within any system they find themselves in.

‘However, as the surveys and reports show, that resilience is being severely tested and may well have reached a turning point where many are deciding that enough is enough.’


If you would like to have your say on working within dentistry, the 2019 survey is now just seven days away from launching.

The NHS Confidence Monitor survey has evolved and grown into the Dentistry Confidence Monitor survey, taking a wider view of the dental market and the challenges faced by those working in NHS and private dentistry.

It includes questions on the GDC, recruitment and mental health, along with the potential impact of the reformed NHS contract.

Visit dentistry.co.uk to take part from 1 April to add your voice to the debate.

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