An across the board collapse in practitioner earnings in England and Wales is stoking a crisis from which NHS dentistry may not recover says the British Dental Association.
New figures from NHS Digital shows that taxable income for high street NHS dentists continues to decline, with a fall of nearly 35% in real terms since 2006.
This unprecedented drop has seen the real incomes for practice owning dentists fall by over £45,000, and their associates by over £20,000 over the last decade. Costs facing individual practitioners for regulatory compliance and registration have gone up by 1086% in the same period.
NHS dentists received a below inflation pay uplift of 1% for 2017/18.
New data shows dentists earnings fell 1.9% in 2015/16, compared to 1.2% fall for GPs. Unlike dentists, GPs in England benefit from a £30 million fund to support skyrocketing indemnity costs, capital investment through a five-year £900m fund, and additional £56m pot for practice resilience, which includes dedicated support for those suffering from stress and burnout.
Recent 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 BDA has expressed grave concerns that the combined effects of underinvestment, mounting costs and the public sector pay restraint - on staff retention, recruitment and the ability of practices to invest - jeopardise the long-term sustainability of the service.
The BDA's Chair of General Dental Practice, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said:
"A decade of chronic underinvestment and pay restraint now risk choking the life out of NHS dentistry.
"This 35% fall in earnings has no precedent in the UK public sector, and is placing the future of the service in doubt. We have been left to confront a perfect storm of mounting costs and pay cuts unaided, and it's our patients that stand to lose out as access, investment, and staff recruitment problems reach crisis point.
"The Government has already thrown a lifeline to GPs. Ministers must understand that sink or swim is not a sustainable policy for this corner of the health service."