A new study has highlighted that 60% of NHS dentists across the UK are planning on leaving their dentistry within the next five years, either by migrating into private care, working overseas or retiring. The information was collated by the British Dental Association (BDA) who wanted to gauge what their members were planning for their professional future.

Of the recently qualified dentists (aged 35 or under), more than half of those surveyed stated they plan to leave the NHS in the immediate future, whilst around 10% of young dentists’ plan to leave the profession altogether. Similar figures have been recorded for young dentists who intend to move overseas, and a staggering 42% stated they plan to obtain a job within a private dentistry. The study also indicated that many believe they will not be able to run their own NHS practice, once a traditional career path for qualified dentists, within the next five years. The findings have therefore raised serious concerns about the sustainability of this sector of the British healthcare system.

Upon these astonishing statistics, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, the chair of General Dental Practice released a statement to highlight the current staffing.

“It is a tragedy that a decade of underfunding and failure to deliver meaningful reform now risk shutting off the pipeline of NHS dentists. [The] government has made NHS high street practice so unattractive that the next generation are now looking to exit.”

Recent data released by the NHS Digital have shown a decline in income over the past decade, and young dentists have experienced their average real income fall by £20,000 despite student debt hitting over £70,000. Unfortunately, because of poor pay and infrastructure, the newly qualified dentists are looking elsewhere for opportunities that employ a more customer-centric model and rewards them appropriately for their work.

“A suffocating contract system tells dentists from day one that government targets matter more than improving the oral health of their patients. We urgently require a new system that recognises and rewards prevention. Practices across the UK are already reporting major recruitment problems. This is a crisis made in Westminster, and Westminster must respond” Overgaard-Nielsen stated.

These findings, alongside The Health Foundation report, concluded the NHS is failing to attract or retain enough skilled workers and demonstrates the NHS could find themselves in a severe staffing situation in the foreseeable future.

Essentially, the NHS is left with limited options; find some budget in the already stretched funding that attracts some of their dentists to stay or review temporary staffing rates to source and hire staff within their budgets until a more permanent solution can be found.

Regardless of what solution the NHS choose, the situation is clear; the NHS must seriously assess their expenditure and ensure their staff are paid appropriately for their work.

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Article by: Nilesh Prag