News analysis: Where has the super-rich dentist gone?

Dentists’ taxable income in England and Wales for 2011/12 fell for the third year.

The average income of an NHS contract holder in 2009/10 was £107,700, the following year – £102,100, then down to £99,600 last year.

This is a fall of 7.5% over the three years. The income of associates (performer only) fell by less (2.7%), but their earnings were 30% lower being £61,600 in the most recent year.

The fall in net income appears to have been caused by an increase in expenses, as gross earnings remained relatively constant over the period.  But the percentage of gross earnings taken up by expenses increased by 3.4 percentage points from 63.4% to 66.8%.

The smaller drop in associates’ net income is probably due to the fact that their expenses are lower.

The populist image of the super-rich dentist is not borne out by the figures. A majority (62.8%) earned a taxable income from NHS and private dentistry of less than £75,000 in 2011/12, compared to 59.8% in 2010/11.

Four out of five earned a taxable income of less than £100,000 in 2011/12. And only 1% (200 dentists) earned a taxable income of £300,000 or more.

Those working under a PDS contract, which includes orthodontists, had a taxable income of £96,100, compared with those working under a GDS contract who took home £71,900.

There are also regional differences in average taxable income, which are consistent with previous years.

Contract holders in Yorkshire and Humber region had the highest average taxable income at £128,700 and Wales the lowest at £90,400. Associates Wales had higher average taxable income than England, £62,800 against £61,700.  London was the region with the lowest taxable income for associates, at £55,900 and the North East the highest at £66,800.

Net earnings reach a peak at ages between 45 and 55 (£91,600) compared with those under 35 who earn (net) £60,200. Men, on average, earn more than women – £86,200 and £59,500 (31%). This could be explained by men tending to work more hours than women.

Responding to the report, Dr John Milne, the chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: 'These figures provide further evidence of the financial challenge facing dental practices across England and Wales and underline what the BDA has repeatedly stressed about the importance of governments properly supporting Health Service dentistry.

'This is the fourth year in a row that we have seen incomes reduced and it becoming increasingly untenable for practices to cope. I urge the health departments to look very seriously at these figures and act to protect practice viability and the provision of high-quality care to patients that the erosion of funding we are seeing is jeopardising.'

The statistics are compiled from an HMRC (Inland Revenue) survey carried out annually. They include self-employed dentists who work within the NHS, but not those who are salaried or who have incorporated, nor are the incomes of the corporates included. Private and NHS earnings are included for those in the sample, but those who work soley in the private sector and have no NHS contract are excluded.

The figures are published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre ( Figures for the year which ended in April this year will not be known until after January next year. The National Association of Specialist Dental Accountants and Lawyers (NASDAL) publish their benchmark statistics for the year normally in March, but it will be this time next year that the date based on the HMRC survey are released.


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