The British Dental Association (BDA) has said underinvestment in dentistry is bringing NHS services to the brink, as the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB) announced its recommendation of a below inflation pay uplift of 1% for dentists in 2017/18.
The BDA has said that today's report has comprehensively failed to recognise the impact that a collapse of 35% in earnings since 2006 has had on investment in dental practices. NHS dentists in England have not received any direct capital investment in recent years, while GPs have continued support through a five-year £900m fund, with an additional £56m fund for practice resilience, including support for GPs suffering burnout and stress.
The BDA has lamented the underinvestment and lack of government strategy and action on oral disease. Recent analysis from the Royal College of Surgeons has shown a 24% rise in the number of tooth extractions performed on 0-4 year olds in hospitals in England over the last decade.
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, the BDA's Chair of General Dental Practice said:
"At the same time that child tooth extractions are surging, the government seems intent on making NHS dentistry unsustainable. Dentists have seen a 35 per cent drop in earnings in the past 10 years. Today's uplift does nothing to address – let alone reverse – a drop that's already impacting on our ability to deliver the improvements in facilities, equipment, and training our patients deserve.
"We're living in uncertain times with the fall in the value of the pound, the rise in the cost of materials and the spiralling costs of regulatory compliance, and all compounded by the chronic underinvestment in NHS dentistry.
"This is a devastating blow for dentists' morale; and these deep and sustained cuts have long ceased to be a question of 'pay restraint' or 'efficiency savings'."
Michael Cranfield, Chair of the BDA’s Salaried Dentists Committee, said:
“The BDA’s own research has highlighted the high levels of stress experienced by community dentists in a deteriorating working environment.
“I fear that this meagre pay rise followed by years of pay restraint, along with the career uncertainty from a fragmented NHS and outsourcing of contracts, will do little to help fill the posts left vacant in community dental services.
“Failure to address these issues not only puts individuals at risk but also undermines dentists’ ability to undertake their challenging roles in treating their patients, many of whom have extensive special needs
“This, combined with chronic underinvestment and facilities left to decline, mean that there will be fewer sites for the homeless, the elderly, the phobic, and those with physical or mental disabilities to access the dental care they so desperately need.”