Does the profession support £20,000 NHS ‘golden hellos’?

The government is now offering £20,000 ‘golden hellos’ to dentists willing to relocate to underserved areas – dental professionals share their thoughts.

On 10 May, NHS England confirmed the launch of a ‘golden hello’ recruitment scheme which was first announced as part of the NHS dental recovery plan. Andrea Leadsom said this scheme would help to make access to NHS dentistry ‘faster, simpler and fairer’.

Several members of the dental profession shared their opinions of the new recruitment scheme.

Eddie Crouch, chair of the British Dental Association

Moving ‘up to 240 dentists’ around won’t solve this crisis. A growing number of dentists simply don’t see a broken NHS service as a place to build a career. Government are choosing to ignore root causes, and rearrange the deckchairs instead.

Sophie Wilcocks, dental therapist, @herefordshire_dental_therapist

Any job advert touting a £20k bonus sounds fantastic right? Of course, to the general public, this looks like an incredible offering from the government to promote the growth of NHS dentistry. 

However, the barriers to delivering NHS dentistry are far greater than that of a lack of a one-time cash bonus. For over a decade, dental professionals have called for an overhaul of the outdated UDA system, fuelling mass movement to private care. Until this system is reimagined into a model that fairly compensates clinicians for the work they complete, NHS dental practices will struggle to survive. 

If such changes were implemented, improved access could only be achieved if the number of dental professionals increased. Despite dental therapists now able to open and close NHS courses of treatment, and providing a significant proportion of routine dentistry, there has been no equivalent incentive such as the ‘golden hello’. 

Unfortunately, those dedicated practitioners who persevered through the hardships of delivering NHS dentistry will also receive no reward for their continued service.

Ultimately £20k may appear promising, but is not enough to fix a dying system. 

Anonymous associate dentist

I have recently handed my notice in at my NHS practice because I returned to work after maternity leave and had no support. I was expected to work to the same pace I was doing before I became pregnant. Having a young child to look after and working on four hours sleep a night, a busy NHS list was not possible.

I worked out that, at the pace I was able to safely work, given the cost of lab bills, indemnity etc, I was on minimum wage. I have just had to pay back £10k to the NHS practice because of clawback. This was so unfair because I was given no allowance for my change in personal circumstances and no support following maternity leave. The £20k over three years barely covers the increased lab bills so is frankly laughable.

I work purely private now and I’m so much happier. I earn a lot more than I would working on the NHS and I’m able to see less people meaning I provide better care and don’t feel like I am rushing.

Jason Wong, chief dental officer

Thanks to our dental recovery plan to improve access to vital dental services, many practices are now taking on new patients and we will continue to work with the profession to encourage them to take advantage of our new incentive scheme.

We are working to ensure that one and a half million additional dental treatments will be offered to patients over the next year with payments made to dental practices for taking on new patients and incentives for dentists to work in underserved areas.

Ben Atkins, clinical dentist

It’s encouraging to see the government try to fix the problems the current system of care is facing. However, I fear in the case of NHS dentistry it simply will not go far enough.

These golden hellos might seem a great idea but when you look at the reality and costs of setting up a new practice in the middle of a dental desert, it is merely a drop in the ocean. If you recruit already existing dentists that will leave a gap in their old area. 

One action on its own will not fix the issues we are facing, but we need to face the facts and come together to form solutions.

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