Only 15% dental practices are fully NHS, data shows

Only 15% of dental practices are fully NHS, according to new statistics, while three in five dentists work 30 hours or less each week.

The new data, carried out by the General Dental Council (GDC), looked into the working patterns of dentists.

The majority of dentists (85%) spend at least 75% of their time in clinical practice, and a further 10% say they undertake a mix of clinical and non-clinical work .

In addition, 19% said they provided only private care, with no NHS, and a further 14% said they predominantly provided private care (over 75% of their time).

Only 15% are fully NHS, with no private care, and a further 27% said they are predominantly NHS (over 75% of their time).

  Other key highlights include:

  • 42% said they were working 30 hours a week or less  
  • 38% regularly work in more than one location  
  • 9% are working as specialists .

As part of their annual renewal, 25,159 (57%) dentists responded to the work patterns survey, of which 24,152 (55%) were working in the UK dental sector.   

A similar collection of work pattern data for dental care professionals (DCPs) is planned as part of the DCP annual renewal process later this year.   

Working patterns

Stefan Czerniawski, executive director of strategy, said:  ‘We now know more about dentists’ working patterns than ever before. For the first time, there is now a rich picture of where dentists work, the balance between private and NHS practice, and the balance between clinical and non-clinical roles and activities, across the four nations of the UK.  

‘I would like to thank every one of the 25,159 dentists whose data allowed us to build up this picture and all the organisations who helped us shape the questions and encouraged participation. This new data provides a firm foundation for better understanding how dentists are working across the UK.

‘It provides important insights into the issues affecting dental professionals and patients.  We are confident that it will support planning and decision making by health services, governments, dental providers – and of course dental professionals themselves – to help ensure that patients get the care they need.  

‘Later this year, we will invite dental care professionals to provide their data when they renew their registration, giving us a complete picture for the whole dental team.’

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch added: ‘We finally have a snapshot of the real world of dentistry – which contains more private full timers than there are NHS. 

‘Yes, it will take time, but government needs to use these numbers to pinpoint where the real dental deserts are and deliver real change. 

‘When access problems are hitting every part of the country this research must not sit on a shelf gathering dust.’

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