NHS dentistry: a profession with a future?
The publication of the most recent NHS Confidence Monitor survey results has revealed that morale amongst dental professionals remains low. The NHS Confidence Monitor is a comprehensive survey commissioned by Practice Plan, which is carried out every six months to track the profession’s confidence levels in the future of NHS dentistry.
This survey, the third in the series, was for the first time opened up to the whole profession and gained just under 600 responses. Dentistry caught up with four industry professionals to find out their views of the latest results.
Dentistry.co.uk: What are your views on the results of the third NHS Confidence Monitor survey?
Claire Roberts (CR): The latest results are another damning indication of the low levels of morale for those working within the dental profession. Compared with 12 months ago, virtually all the respondents feel worse off and confidence in the NHS is reduced in all sections of this survey. There seems to be no improvement – present or future – in remuneration, regulation, red tape or prospects within the NHS.
Alun Rees (AR): These results reflect my own experiences about the condition of NHS dentistry in the UK. Like Claire says, morale is poor across the board, especially in practices that are dependent upon the NHS for their livelihood. We are used to seeing downbeat opinions from dentists; these results show dental team members feel the same.
Dentistry.co.uk: Seventy per cent of survey respondents indicated that they would not recommend dentistry as a career to a friend or family member. Why do you think this is the case?
Sheila Scott (SS): This is a really damning statistic. What happened to the profession that people used to look up to and admire, and aspire to?
Even more tellingly, half of all practice managers – who by definition earn so much less than their dentist colleagues – will not be recommending dentistry to their children. These managers see the pressures dentists are under, and they obviously don’t think the pressure is ‘worth it’.
AR: The fact that less than a third of those asked would recommend dentistry as a career to a friend or family member saddens me and is a savage indictment of the way the profession has been treated by successive governments.
Jane LeLean (JL): I don’t think that dentists would recommend their career because most of them are tired, overwhelmed, feel that they can’t offer the most appropriate care to patients, are fearful of litigation, work long hours, are doing difficult work and are under-remunerated. Would I recommend it? Yes, absolutely; I am in the 30% that thinks that dentistry is the most amazing profession that gives you the opportunity to serve your patients and live an interesting varied life, but clearly most wouldn’t.
Dentistry.co.uk: The results revealed that the average planned retirement age for dentists is 61. What are your views on this?
CR: The results do not indicate what proportion of respondents are unaffected by the changes to our pensionable age.
Those who are unaffected will most likely retire at or before 60, and the new reduced lifetime allowance will encourage them to go sooner. For the rest of us, it seems to indicate that we do not want to work to (in my case 67 and I’m 51) our state pension age. I can only assume that most of us are making other plans, be it private pension or savings schemes, or simply do not intend to continue in the profession at that point, preferring to do something else.
To view the full results and read further comments from industry professionals, go to www.nhsdentistryinsights.co.uk.
Sheila Scott has over 20 years’ experience in dental business coaching and is one of dentistry’s most sought-after speakers.
Alun Rees is an experienced dentist and qualified coach who has been coaching dentists and dental teams since 2005.
Jane LeLean is an international dental business coach, trainer and speaker.
Claire Roberts has been working in dentistry since she qualified in 1988. She is now the owner and practising dentist of a mixed practice.