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Government failure leaves morale among dentists at all-time low

Official data shows over 60% of dentists in England are thinking of leaving the NHS

The British Dental Association has lamented Government’s failure to tackle the growing exodus from the NHS workforce, as new official data shows the numbers are set to mount.

Dentists' Working Patterns, Motivation and Morale data shows morale is now at an all-time low – with only 16% of dentist practice owners and 18% of dentist associates in England saying morale is high, a record low result for both groups. 6 in 10 of all dentists say their morale is low or very low.

With the access crisis hitting millions across England, 64% of practice owners and 61% of associate dentists in England are now thinking of leaving NHS dentistry.

The BDA has described the Government’s recent Recovery Plan as ‘unworthy of the title’ and has lambasted the non-stop spin from Ministers attempting to defend their unambitious and unfunded policies.

Dental Minister Andrea Leadsom MP told Parliament last week that “it isn’t the case dentists are disappearing from the NHS,” citing supposed ‘growth’ of 1,352 dentists, by comparing to 2010 figures. The reality is NHS dentist headcount has fallen to levels not seen since 2017, with today’s data showing a steady fall in the proportion of NHS work dentists do.

Last month the Secretary of State had to correct the official record after informing Parliament that the plan was funded by £200m of ‘new’ money. It is entirely funded by recycling underspends in the service’s existing £3bn budget, which has been cut by a third in real terms since 2010. The Government has tried claiming that 500 practices are now taking on new NHS patients as a result of this package. The reality is officials have just changed the definition of ‘access’ on NHS.uk.

A recent poll of dentists in England by the BDA showed just 3% think the plan will result in their practice seeing more NHS patients. 43% believe the plan will actually lead to their practice seeing fewer NHS patients. Only 1% of respondents believe the plan is capable of meeting the government’s stated objective to provide NHS dental care to ‘all who need it’.

The BDA has slammed Government for rejecting the Health and Social Care Committee’s key recommendation to break with the discredited NHS contract, which is fuelling this exodus. It stresses that any progress will hinge on real reform and sustainable funding.

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said:

“This Government hasn’t given dentists any reason to be cheerful.

“The PM promised to ‘restore’ this service, but all we’ve had is spin, and unfunded, unambitious plans.

“We can’t have NHS dentistry without NHS dentists. Without real reform Ministers won’t make it a place dentists want to work.”