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NHS Dentists demand lifeline as 'dental inflation' soars

NHS dentists need real support from all four UK governments to withstand the impact of 'dental inflation', now standing at over 11% according to our new analysis.

We've looked data from official sources and our own surveys, and it reveals the huge inflationary pressures that dentists are now facing, with lab bills increasing on average by 15% and nearly one-fifth of dentists seeing their utility bills rise by more than 50%.

Following the real-term pay cuts announced this week, we are demanding that all UK health departments ensure that uplifts on expenses – anticipated shortly – at least keep pace with inflation, to ensure dentists are not left delivering NHS care at a financial loss.

Clearly, failure to keep pace with rising costs will have real consequences for practices as they struggle to deliver care and recruit and retain dentists and staff.

In setting out its recommendation on pay, the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB) rightly noted that: "our recommendations this year are net of expenses and therefore do not take into account fluctuations in operating costs. Ensuring that dental practices' financial sustainability and dental earnings are not affected by such fluctuations is an important responsibility that lies with the governments, in agreeing expenses uplifts."

The DDRB recommends on pay, the four UK administrations are then responsible for determining an allocation for expenses to deliver an overall uplift in fees and contract values. They also noted: "expenses uplifts must be sufficient to both deliver dental services and protect dental incomes, ensuring that our pay recommendations are received by providing-performers and associates alike, in order that they can address issues of recruitment, retention and motivation."

In England the funding given to practices for Dental Foundation Training has also been frozen since 2010. This payment remains at £5,347, whereas - had it been uplifted in line with inflation – it would now be £8,030, a fall of a third.

Thousands of dentists have left the NHS since the first lockdown. Given the exodus we are also pushing for full restoration of these training service costs to guarantee the pipeline of young talent entering the service.

"Dentists have been handed another real-terms pay cut" says the BDA's Deputy Chair Peter Crooks. "It would be foolhardy for officials to apply the same logic to their expenses given the soaring costs of delivering dentistry.

"No frontline health professional should be expected to provide NHS care at a financial loss.

"Dental inflation is soaring. Many dentists are already reconsidering their future in the NHS, and if governments fail to step up it will have devastating consequences for millions of patients."