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​Decade-long collapse in NI dentists' earnings confirmed by latest figures

29 August 2019


A decade-long collapse in dentists' earnings risks the sustainability of Health Service dentistry, BDA Northern Ireland said in the wake of today's report from NHS Digital.


The BDA highlights that since 2008/09, dentists' earnings have fallen in real terms by 30% for practice owners, while associates have seen their pay decimated by 39%.


This reduction has resulted in 70% of practice owners, and over half of associates, describing their morale as 'low' or 'very low' - with nearly two-thirds of dentists considering leaving the profession.

The trade union believe these figures raise serious concerns about the long-term sustainability of practices across Northern Ireland, and were commenting in response to the 2017/18 earnings and expenses data released by NHS Digital.


While the average taxable income of all general dental practitioners (practice owners and associates) fell by £3,000 (4.4%) between 2015/16 -2017/18, the report shows that dentists who are most committed to the Health Service have seen the largest drop in income:


  • Taxable income of all practice owners decreased by 1.4% between 2015/16-2017/18, with those most reliant on Health Service earnings experiencing a 12.1% fall in taxable income over the same period
  • Taxable income of associates fell by 3.5% between 2015/16 -2017/18 with those most reliant on Health Service earnings absorbing a 6.3% fall in taxable income over the same period.

Richard Graham, Chair, BDA Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee, commented:


"These latest findings show once again that an unsustainable squeeze on dental income, with those most committed to Health Service dentistry, facing the deepest cuts.


"The BDA has called for the urgent implementation of the 2.5% net pay uplift recommended by the independent Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration for 2019/20. This would be the first step towards addressing the cumulative impact of rising expenses and a decade of below-inflation pay uplifts.


"Oral health matters. It is time that the Department of Health addresses the unsustainable financial burden on dentists, as they struggle to provide Health Service dentistry to the population at fees that simply don't pay. We look forward to raising these matters with the Permanent Secretary in the near future."


BDA Northern Ireland

BDA Northern Ireland supports, represents and promotes, the interests of all dentists working in Northern Ireland. Working with elected committee members, we negotiate on behalf of the profession on terms and conditions, pay and contracts. Join us.