We fight your corner as the Government, once again, intends to impose significant real terms pay cuts on NHS dentists.
It’s a kick in the teeth for the profession and makes a mockery of claims that the Pay Review Body process is in any way ‘independent’. The Department for Health and Social Care has confirmed it has budgeted for a pay rise of just 3.5% for the coming financial year, at a time when inflation is running in double digits.
This figure means that NHS dentists will see pay decreases again, on top of the 38% real terms cut there has been since 2010. In Northern Ireland, it has been indicated that a pay uplift in 2023/24 is ‘unaffordable’ without cuts or additional in-year funding. When it comes to pay a blind focus on ‘affordability’ is now threatening the very sustainability of NHS services.
Recruitment challenges are universal
"Our recent annual survey of members paints a stark and depressing picture."
No wonder then that NHS dentistry faces the crisis it does. Our recent annual survey of members paints a stark and depressing picture.
95% of practices with a high NHS commitment who had tried to recruit associates reported difficulties in doing so, with more than half of all practices with vacancies reporting having posts vacant for more than six months. Recruitment challenges are no longer in a few areas, they are universal across NHS dentistry.
We also found that half of associates reported an intention to increase the amount of private work they undertake, up from 39% in 2021. Dentists continue to vote with their feet, and further cuts to pay will only accelerate the movement to the private sector.
Morale is at lowest level on record
"Relentless pressure and declining workforce is felt within every workplace."
Almost two-thirds of General Dental Practitioners (GDPs) who responded to our survey told us their morale was low or very low, representing the poorest results ever recorded. 75% of practice owners and 56 per cent of associates working in practices with a high NHS commitment told us they were very or extremely stressed.
The same is true in the Community Dental Service (CDS), where our research revealed a decrease in job satisfaction and morale as the impact of the relentless pressure and declining workforce is felt within every workplace. Combined with this trend, our survey also found that CDS dentists are under more pressure than ever to work outside of their contracted hours, impacting on their health and wellbeing.
Expect a sleight of hand on expenses
The Government’s continuing sleight of hand in underfunding expenses means that dentists don’t actually receive the promised headline pay increase. At a time when practice running costs are rising significantly, this problem is even more acute.
We’ve made it clear to Government and the Doctor’s and Dentist’s Pay Review Body that this can’t continue. It is vital that a transparent, honest means for dealing with expenses in a way that reflects the real cost of delivering NHS care is urgently established.
An above inflation award is a necessity
There is unequivocally a crisis in recruitment, retention, morale and motivation, and, critically for patients, in the availability and delivery of NHS dental services. This is the argument we made loud and clear in our evidence to the Pay Review Body
for NHS dentists.
There must be urgent action to address the ongoing real terms decline of dentists’ pay, as well as ensuring that the current very high levels of inflation do not erode this further. That’s why we’re calling for NHS dentists to receive a pay increase of inflation plus five per cent for the next financial year.
We’ve already joined with the BMA to press for real reform of the pay review process, and for real independence. Ministers have imposed public sector pay freezes and pay caps, and are once again arbitrarily defining NHS 'affordability'.
The profession cannot go on like this. We will continue to fight your corner next month in evidence to both the DDRB and to Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee.
Chair of Review Body and Evidence Committee (RBEC), Deputy Chair BDA Board