Dentists in NHS are much less happy than those in private practice

Dentists in NHS are much less happy than those in private practice

Practice Plan has published its latest NHS Confidence Monitor survey and, for the first time, private dentists have been approached for comment too. The focus for this survey switched from the profession’s confidence in the future of NHS dentistry to their happiness levels working within it. The results show a deep gulf between the happiness levels of NHS dentists compared to private dentists.

The survey asked NHS dentists to rate how happy they feel that they can achieve what they want to across seven areas – patient care, managing patient expectations, work/ life balance, fair remuneration, job satisfaction, doing their job within agreed working hours, and carrying out work without feeling overly stressed. They said that they were unhappy in response to every question asked about their working life.

Private dentists were also asked to rate how happy they felt in these areas, compared to when they were working in the NHS. The results showed that, across the board, NHS dentists were much less happy than private dentists. The vast majority of those working in private practice said they were happy.

When asked how happy they were that they could provide the level of care they wanted to, 81% of NHS dentists said they were unhappy, 90% also said that they did not have enough time to manage patient expectations. Private dentists were asked how happy they were that they could provide the level of care they wanted to – 92% said they were happier. The same percentage also said they were happier about how much time they had to manage patient expectations.

Almost all NHS dentists, 91%, did not feel they were fairly remunerated and 89% felt unable to carry out the work they do without feeling overly stressed. Given that combination, it is unsurprising that 85% do not feel the level of job satisfaction they would like to. Private dentists were mainly (85%) happier about the remuneration they receive, 81% happier about being able to work without feeling overly stressed, and 89% happier about the level of job satisfaction they can achieve.

NHS dentists were slightly less unhappy about their working hours and their ability to achieve a good work/life balance, with 69% saying they weren’t happy about their hours and 72% unhappy with their work/life balance. However, the private dentists again said that they were happier with 82% declaring they were happy with their hours and 76% happy with their work/life balance.

As well as asking how happy they felt about their working lives, we also asked dentists how anxious they felt about the risk of complaints/litigation. The majority of respondents, regardless of what sector they work in, had some level of anxiety. However, the figure is higher for those working in the NHS, with 95% saying they have some level of anxiety about this – and, within that, 71% said they were ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ anxious in this area. In comparison, while 67% of private dentists reported some level of anxiety, less than half (43%) of those said they were ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ anxious.

Asked what was their confidence level that dentistry has a ‘long-term future’ in the NHS? (0% being no confidence and 100% being extremely confident.) NHS dentists rated it at 28% and private at 19%.

Asked whether it was appropriate for NHS dentistry to move to a ‘core’ service (NHS dentistry servicing only vulnerable groups and those who cannot afford to pay the charges), 64% of NHS dentists agreed and 86% in private practice.

For more information about the results go to:


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