The long-term sustainability of the service has cause for concern, as new data from NHS Digital has shown that NHS dentists in England and Wales have experienced a 35% pay squeeze over the last decade.
This unprecedented drop has seen real incomes for practice-owning dentists fall by as much as £47,000, and their associates by over £23,000 over the last decade. Costs facing individual practitioners for regulatory compliance and registration have gone up by 1000% in the same period.
NHS dentists are expected to receive a below inflation pay uplift of less than 2% for 2018/19.
Official data also published today shows morale and motivation among NHS dentists is now at an all-time low in all UK nations, with lower levels of morale linked to higher NHS commitments. The data shows a continued fall in the NHS workforce in England and Wales, with numbers at their lowest levels since 2010.
Research for the BBC has revealed that just 52% of NHS dental practices in England are accepting new adult patients, and just 60% accepting new child NHS patients. The Westminster Government’s spend per head on NHS dentistry has fallen £4.95, from £40.95 to £36, in the last five years.
The British Dental Association’s Chair of General Dental Practice Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen said:
“Austerity is meant to be over, but across the UK NHS dentistry is running on fumes. We’ve seen a drop in real incomes without precedent in the public sector. The results are predictable, morale at an all-time low, recruitment and retention problems mounting, as patients wait longer or travel further for care.
“Underfunding and failure to deliver meaningful reform have left the sustainability of this service in doubt. Matt Hancock pledged to put prevention at the heart of his approach to the health service. In the service’s 70th year he must recognise that we can’t have NHS dentistry without NHS dentists.”