The BDA has welcomed Health Education England's recommendations for sweeping action on stress across health professions, and renewed its call for parity in provision between NHS dentists and GPs on occupational health.
The NHS Staff and Learners' Mental Wellbeing Commission report builds on studies conducted by the BDA and other health associations on the cost of burnout and mental health to staff and the wider health service.
Recommendations include the creation of an NHS Workforce Guardian for primary care settings, tackling problems from the very outset of education, and rapid referral pathways for both students and staff to either a GP or an occupational health clinician – dubbed 'an NHS for the NHS'.
BDA research, recently published in the British Dental Journal, found that almost half of dentists say stress in their job is exceeding their ability to cope, and the most stressful aspects of their work are related to regulation and fear of litigation, and pressures. Researchers found high levels of stress and burnout amongst a survey of more than 2,000 UK dentists, amongst whom almost a fifth (17.6%) admitted they had seriously thought about committing suicide.
The BDA has called for funded access to the Practitioner Health Programme for NHS dentists across England on the same basis offered at present to GPs. The service provides a range of support and therapies for practitioners experiencing difficulties, and is currently only directly accessible for GDPs in London.
BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said: "It is refreshing to see officials waking up to the weight of evidence on stress and burnout in this profession.
"The logic of this report is sound: no NHS dentist or dental student should suffer for the work they do for the NHS. Now we will need to see these principles joined with action.
"There are dentists out there in desperate need of support, and they deserve access to services currently offered to our medical colleagues. We know the drivers fuelling this epidemic of burnout - from regulation to the NHS treadmill - and we will need to see an approach founded on prevention, and not just cure."