A recruitment crisis for NHS dentists is imminent, and set to deepen access problems across England, according to new data from the British Dental Association (BDA). Survey evidence suggests over two thirds (68%) of NHS practices in England who attempted to recruit in the last year struggled to fill vacancies. Half of the NHS practices who attempted recruitment reported issues in the previous year.
According to the BDA, these figures reflect widespread disillusionment with England's unreformed NHS dental system, with levels of NHS commitment now a leading driver of low morale and motivation. Those with the highest levels of NHS work (over 75% NHS work as opposed to private) appeared more than twice as likely (39%) to report job dissatisfaction than those with lighter commitments (16%).
In the latest sign of emerging crisis Plymouth's Director of Public Health, was instructed by councillors to write to NHS England requesting 'urgent local action to improve access to NHS Dentists' amid 9,000 long waiting lists fuelled by staff shortages and patients facing a 70 mile journey for treatment.
The BDA has previously reported that 58% of NHS dentists say they are now planning to leave the service in the next 5 years. Dentist leaders say that failure to reform the target-driven system in England and Wales, and the 35% real-terms fall in practitioner incomes continue to threaten retention, recruitment and the long term sustainability of the service. Latest workforce statistics have shown the first year on year decline in workforce numbers in a generation.
BDA Vice Chair Eddie Crouch said: 'When patients are struggling to get access government should not be punishing dentists for commitment to the NHS. It is a damning indictment of current policy that the dentists who go over and above with NHS care are now paying the price in low morale. The constant treadmill of targets and pay cuts mean something has to give, and services cannot be maintained when practices are unable to fill vacancies.
'Failure to act is already leaving millions of patients across the country in limbo. We look to ministers to take responsibility and show dedicated health professionals that NHS care is not an unattractive option.'