Over half of NHS young dentists heading for the exit says BDA

Half of NHS young dentists heading for the exit says BDA

The BDA has published a survey of its GDP members which indicates that almost 58% of dentists who responded are planning on turning away from NHS dentistry in the next 5 years. GDPC chair, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen said: “Practices across the UK are already reporting major recruitment problems. This is a crisis made in Westminster, and Westminster must respond.”

Results highlight that over half (53%) of young and newly qualified BDA members (aged under 35) intend on leaving the NHS in the same period, raising questions about the sustainability of the service. Nearly 10% of these respondents state they intend to leave dentistry entirely, with similar numbers stating they intend to move to work overseas.  42% plan refocusing on private dentistry.

Less than 1 in 6 (16%) of these young dentists estimate they will be able to own a practice within the next 5 years. Practice ownership, once the traditional career path for young NHS dentists has ceased to be an option for many amid a long term decline in earnings, and the growth of chain ‘corporate’ dentistry firms.  

Commenting on the survey Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, the BDA’s Chair of General Dental Practice said:  “It is a tragedy that a decade of underfunding and failure to deliver meaningful reform now risk shutting off the pipeline of NHS dentists. Government has made NHS high street practice so unattractive the next generation are now looking to the exit. These young dentists are the backbone of the dental workforce, and losing them at the start of their careers raises existential questions about the future of the service. 

“A suffocating contract system tells dentists from day one that government targets matter more than improving the oral health of their patients. We urgently require a new system that recognizes and rewards prevention. The traditional career path for high street NHS dentists has gone, and until government can offer a viable alternative this brain drain will continue.

Harman Chahal is Chair of the BDA’s Young Dentists Committee. Formerly an NHS associate in a high needs area of Birmingham, he decided to leave NHS practice back in April. Harman added: “Young NHS dentists are being asked to make impossible choices. They are offered no reward for going above and beyond, just the constant threat of penalties for not hitting government targets. We have a system that limits our ability to care for those who need us most, while forcing us to explain the mechanics of the payment system to patients who expect NHS care to be free at the point of use. The dental contract has reduced our patients to a line in a spreadsheet. This conveyor belt model of care has decisively failed both our patients and the young dentists on whom the future of the service depends.”

The figures are from a BDA survey of its member GDPs.  Fieldwork took place between June-July 2017. 1,212 questionnaires were completed and returned by post or submitted online representing a response rate of 25.4%.

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