Sarah Ramage is the clinical director at Bupa Dental Care. She examines workforce attraction within corporate dentistry and what the next 25 years might look like.
This year we’re all living in extraordinary times. The global pandemic has hit the dental industry as hard as others.
There are estimated to be in the region of 205 corporate dental groups currently in business (Laing and Buisson, 2018). They are defined as incorporated companies or sole trader/partnerships operating three or more dental practices. That’s a huge number of corporate dentists and patients COVID-19 affects.
As a result of the pandemic many private practices will have to resort to furlough and redundancies.
This will result in talented clinicians looking for new roles and opportunities. At Bupa Dental Care, we think that the next 25 years will show more dental clinicians attracted to corporate dentistry as a career option.
But the benefits of corporate dentistry far outweigh simply being able to weather the global pandemic situation.
There is a preconception within dentistry. Becoming part of the corporate world will create a loss of autonomy, control and independence. This is simply not the case. Being part of a corporate allows dentists to focus on providing high-quality care to their patients.
Something we regularly hear from our dentists is how much they appreciate the focus on the patients and the clinical freedom that we’re committed to giving them.
Being part of a corporate organisation also means that dentists have good lines of communication to regulatory and professional bodies. This allows them to improve patient safety and the in-practice environment. It also allows access to investment in the latest developments within technology, so practices we can equip practices with state-of-the-art technology.
Working within a corporation ensures the practice is set-up appropriately, well run and busy. This is so that clinicians can focus on what really matters – the patients.
Working for a corporate opens up a number of different career pathways for clinicians, whether they want build their private base alongside the NHS, obtain guidance and support for developing their clinical career, or explore areas such as management or governance.
Relocation is also another benefit of the job; with the ability to relocate within the business to wherever a corporate might have other practices.
For newly qualified dentists in particular, there is an opportunity to come into an organisation that offers pathways outside of clinical roles. Dentists who have worked in the industry for some time mentor and teach new dentists.
The collegial support available within a large group is considerable. Many of our clinicians have found support in these difficult times, particularly valuable.
Care for our colleagues
The global pandemic forced the dental industry to think on its feet in the face of unprecedented challenges in order to be able to treat patients.
At Bupa Dental Care, we set up an Emergency Support fund to support all our colleagues experiencing severe and urgent financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. We shared health and wellbeing resources, and financial management resources to help them through their individual situations.
In addition to trying to attract more clinicians into the corporate dentistry world to the UK, we also have barriers to overcome in terms of the dental labour market. In particular for dentists coming from overseas.
The process for EU/non-EU dentist qualification is long. It is imperative that this system is simplified in order to avoid facing at least a 30%-40% reduction in workforce needed every year.
As an industry, we must provide more training places in dentistry schools. This will help develop a bigger UK dentistry market, with experienced dentists encouraged and rewarded for training students.
Looking ahead to the next 25 years, we hope to see a great deal of associates attracted to the opportunities available in corporate dentistry. Also, the benefits that come with holding a place in a larger organisation. I see the industry as likely to continue to grow. I look forward to new developments within it in the coming years.
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