‘Failed systems’ – no change in earnings for dentists in England

No change in earnings for dentists in EnglandSelf-employed dentists in England saw no change to their taxable income in 2019/20, new data reveals. 

The figure remained at £68,600 for the second year running – a figure that now falls below their Welsh counterparts.

In Wales, 2019/20 brought a 7% rise in taxable income, marking an increase from £64,200 to £68,700. NHS Digital coined the spike ‘statistically significant’.

In Scotland, however, dentists experienced a 2.1% decrease in taxable income. This fell from £69,400 to £67,900.

The British Dental Association argues that the figures expose a nearly 40% fall in real terms in dentists’ taxable earnings over the last 10 years.

It believes that the drop in earnings is threatening the long-term recovery of dentistry as it eases its way out of the pandemic.

The lack of investment into securing its future – unlike the devolved governments – means practices face growing costs, it says.

Historic squeeze on earnings

Shawn Charlwood is the chair of the BDA’s general dental practice committee.

‘This lost decade on pay will inevitably undermine NHS dentistry’s recovery,’ he said.

‘Government has taken the “do more with less” mantra to the nth degree. Every penny of investment in this service comes from dentists’ own pockets. This historic squeeze has left practices unable to deliver needed improvements in facilities, equipment, and training, even before the added costs of COVID arrived.

‘The pandemic has exposed the rotten foundations this service is built on, with failed systems and underinvestment leaving millions unable to secure the care they need.

‘Dentists need to see this service as a place they’d chose to build a career. From discredited contracts to flat lining pay, no one should be penalised for working in the NHS.’

Wake-up call

The BDA Northern Ireland have also voiced concerns over the state of dentistry.

Figures show there was a 4.2% decrease in the taxable income of self-employed dentists in Northern Ireland. This fell from £68,000 to £65,100.

Despite the government propping up dentistry with funding during the pandemic, the association argues that the profession has historically relied on their earnings for investment.

Richard Graham is chair of the BDA’s NI dental practice committee.

‘When post-pandemic, patients across Northern Ireland are already struggling to access dental services, these figures should serve as a wake-up call,’ he said.

‘Before COVID struck, Health Service dentistry was run into the ground. Colleagues are facing the greatest oral health problems in the UK with their hands tied by a decades-old contract model rewards failure, and chronic underfunding in wholly inadequate fees that no longer make any financial sense.’

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