Two thirds of UK dentists ‘often think of leaving dentistry’, says NHS report

Two thirds of UK dentists often think of leaving dentistry, says NHS

NHS England has published a report on the working patterns, motivation and morale of primary care dentists throughout the UK.

Published today (25 April), the report is based on findings from the Dental Working Patterns Survey. This was sent to all dentists in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland who had completed any NHS work in 2022/23.

The survey was last completed for 2020/21.

The results of the survey suggest that motivation and morale have dropped since the previous report. Around two thirds of the respondents said they often think of leaving dentistry. Northern Ireland was the only region in which morale had improved slightly since the previous results.

The amount of NHS or health service work that dentists perform had decreased throughout the UK. However, the largest decreases were in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, dentists reported spending 62.7% of their time on NHS dentistry, falling from 72.6% in the previous survey. The report says that dentists who performed higher amounts of NHS dentistry had lower levels of motivation.

Financial concerns such as increasing costs and declining income were a major factor for low morale. Recruitment and retention issues have also become much more prevalent concerns.

Dentists’ working hours are decreasing

In addition, the report indicates that dentists are working fewer hours per week, with an average of 35.6 hours. Associate dentists reported lower working hours of averagely 33.6 hours per week, while the average for principal dentists was 41.4 hours.

Male dentists had averagely higher working hours than female dentists overall. However, female dentists younger than 35 and older 45 worked more hours per week than males in their age groups.

The survey also measured the proportion of their time that dentists are spending on clinical work. Overall, the proportion of clinical work has increased, particularly in England and Northern Ireland.

Those who spent more of their time on NHS dentistry were also found to have spent more time on clinical work generally. Female associates aged 35-44 spent the greatest proportion of their time on clinical work, at 87.9%.

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