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Record-breaking cuts to real incomes will fuel exodus from NHS

As inflation hits a 40-year high, we have warned that the derisory pay awards for dentists - 4.5% - will only accelerate the workforce crisis facing NHS dentistry across the UK.

Dentists have seen their real incomes collapse by nearly 40% since the financial crash. We have looked at data across the whole public sector and sister health professions, and this fall has no parallel in the UK public sector.

Next month we will see the impact of COVID when official data for 2020/21 is published, but dental accountants NASDAL have indicated a further fall in earnings – in cash terms – of over 10% for associate dentists.

"For a decade we've seen euphemisms of 'pay restraint' and 'efficiency savings' amount to the deepest pay cuts in the public sector" says Peter Crooks, Deputy Chair of the BDA. "This derisory award will only serve to give dentists more reasons to reconsider their future in the NHS, and millions of patients will pay the price."

Westminster's Health and Social Care Committee was warned in May that NHS dentistry faced a 'slow death', with endemic recruitment and retention problems, and thousands of dentists having left the service since lockdown.

While typical levels of pay are only negligibly higher in the private sector, dentists are afforded greater time with patients, without the pressures of working to 'tick boxes and targets' model of the discredited NHS contract operating in England.

Dentists across the UK are facing similar challenges. In each nation, colleagues are finding the mounting costs of delivering care leaving them delivering NHS dentistry at a financial loss. We will be pressing Departments/governments for a reality check on expenses that takes soaring 'dental inflation' into consideration.

The Scottish Government has now confirmed it will follow the Westminster Government with a 4.5% uplift.

The Welsh government has broadcast a shortfall in funds, and ministers have pledged to speak to trade unions ahead of confirming their plans.

In Northern Ireland, Health Minister Robin Swann has indicated any pay increases for health workers cannot be implemented without an agreed Stormont budget, which means a delay until a new Executive is in place.

We will now canvass our membership to assess the appetite for a full range of action in response.

Our advice team have meanwhile outlined everything you need to know if you are considering supporting your income by offering private treatments, either exclusively or alongside NHS work.