Tackling the growing problem of stress in dentistry is one of our core areas of focus this year, and we continue to highlight the increasing pressures dentists are under. We encourage any dentist who feels they need mental health support to access the services the Scottish Government has now made available to them.
In recent years, the BDA's Scottish Dental Practice Committee fought hard to get dentists and their teams access to the NHS Occupational Health Advice and Guidance Service, and we were delighted when it was introduced on 1 June 2018. The scheme is equivalent to the service that was already available to GPs and medical practice staff, and is delivered through the NHS Boards in conjunction with SALUS.
The data from the first four months since the service was introduced showed that Occupational Health Services were contacted almost 2,000 times by dental staff. The figure will actually be higher than this, as not all NHS Boards returned completed data.
The services most used were immunisations and blood tests, followed by needlestick and blood-borne virus follow-ups. There was a recent shortage of the Hepatitis B Vaccine, but the Scottish Government has advised us that this has now been resolved.
Details of who to contact about occupational health services, depending on which board you are working in, are available in this document (pages 6-7).
We hope that dentists and their staff are also making use of the mental health support this service provides. You can self-refer to the occupational health service, be offered free counselling services or access to other support agencies, and also get access to some online resources.
We know that increasingly levels of stress are adversely affecting dentists across Scotland. In our study across the UK, nearly half of dentists said that stress in their jobs is exceeding their ability to cope.
NHS Digital surveys also show that morale in the profession continues to fall. More than half of practice owners in Scotland said that their morale was 'low or 'very low'. Practice owners said they were concerned about the increasing expenses and the decline in morale as having a negative impact on their professional and personal lives.
For associates working in Scotland, just over half said income was a significant factor in causing low morale. They said they were also very concerned about the impact of the risk of litigation and the rising costs of indemnity fees.
These are all very worrying trends for our workforce and the impact on the sustainability of NHS dentistry in Scotland.
We will continue to call for better working lives and terms and conditions for our dentists, to ensure that dentistry remains a viable career, and that staff aren't facing burnout by the increasing pressures to do more for less.
David McColl, Chair
Scottish Dental Practice Committee
BDA Scotland supports, represents and promotes, the interests of all dentists working in Scotland. Working with elected committee members, we negotiate on behalf of the profession on terms and conditions, and pay and contracts. Join us.