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​Pay collapse continues as patient access worsens

29 August 2019


The BDA has warned that patient access problems risk being here to stay, as new official figures show sustained pressure on pay for NHS dentists across Britain.


Non practice owning associate dentists in England and Wales, who make up the overwhelming majority (80%+) of the workforce, have seen their incomes drop from £67,800 in 2008/9 to £59,700 in 2017/18, a 36% fall to less than £47,000 when factoring in inflation. 


Dentist leaders have said figures shows the service has yet to recover from a decade-long collapse in real incomes. Practice owners in England and Wales have seen their real incomes fall by 30% since 2008/9. The situation is mirrored north of the border, where Scottish owners have seen a 29% real terms fall, and associate dentists a 35% fall. 


Access problems have worsened in recent years, as recruitment and retention issues have worsened. Over a million new patients in England have tried and failed to secure appointments according to BDA analysis of official figures, while in Wales a recent BDA study found just 1 in 6 practices are accepting new NHS patients.


BDA surveys indicate deep recruitment and retention problems, with three out of five dental practitioners in England saying they intend to reduce their NHS work, or stop entirely, in the next five years.


While dentist leaders have welcomed the latest above-inflation pay awards, they have stressed the need for consistency given scale of the last decade's pay cuts. 


Chair of the BDA's General Dental Practice Committee Dave Cottam said:


"NHS dentists have faced unprecedented cuts to real incomes, that have left patients across England struggling to get an appointment. 


"From Cornwall to Cumbria recruitment and retention problems are mounting. NHS dentistry simply cannot have a future without NHS dentists prepared to work within it. 


"If Ministers want this service to survive the very least they can do is maintain pay awards on the right side of inflation. One-offs will not undo a decade of savage cuts."


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