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New workforce data

NHS England’s new approach to workforce data collection must underpin a step change in the response to the crisis facing dentistry.

Changes mean we could finally see meaningful figures on the NHS work practices undertake. Traditional approaches have counted heads, not commitment, giving a dentist doing one NHS check-up a year the same weight as an NHS full-timer.

In England, NHS dentist numbers are over 500 down since lockdown, but we know that’s only part of the story. Our surveys show over half of dentists have reduced their NHS commitment since 2020, a movement going unseen in official figures.

NHS England will now be seeking data bi-annually on headcount, NHS contracted hours, as well as vacant posts. More detail on the new approach is available here.

Clearly any new paperwork will create some administrative burdens for practices. And that is precisely why we need to see these figures put to work.

This data needs to start driving effective decision making across dentistry. Used appropriately it can show where the real ‘dental deserts’ actually are. It must support evidence-based workforce planning and illustrate the real pressures practices are under.