Experts

‘Half of dentists intend to leave NHS in next five years,’ experts warn

New research claims that more than half of dentists are planning on leaving the NHS within the next five years, prompting calls for urgent action to avoid a growing crisis.

A study by the British Dental Association (BDA) has found that around 58 per cent want to move on, with many looking to private practice. And, as 53 per cent of younger and newly qualified dentists admitted they too were considering their future, the BDA’s chairman of general dental practice called for government reforms to avoid a “crisis”.

“It is a tragedy that a decade of underfunding and failure to deliver meaningful reform now risk shutting off the pipeline of NHS dentists,” said Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, BDA chairman of General Dental Practice.

“Government has made NHS high street practice so unattractive the next generation are now looking to the exit.”

It’s now emerged one Wakefield district practice has recently lost the equivalent of 2.5 working dentists, caring for around 5,000 patients.

BDA chair of the principal executive committee Mick Armstrong, who practices in Castleford, said they had been left demoralised: “It’s time the Government delivered on years of promises, and made a decisive break with a system that has pushed NHS dentistry in Yorkshire to breaking point.”

Urgent measures must be taken to retain the “brightest and best” young dentists, he warned.

“Colleagues who have capacity are told they can’t treat more patients, while others struggle to fill vacancies,” he said.

“Rather than fix our problems this survey shows Government inaction could make Yorkshire the new normal.

“My own practice has lost several young but experienced dentists left demoralised by a contract that might suit government accountants but has decisively failed our patients.

“NHS dentistry only has a future if it can retain its brightest and best. These young graduates want to more than chase targets. They want to deliver care like they were trained to do.”

The study by the BDA was carried out in June and July, and involved more than 1,200 dentists.

Around 42 per cent of those young dentists who plan on leaving said they will focus on private practice, the results show.

“These young dentists are the backbone of the dental workforce, and losing them at the start of their careers raises existential questions about the future of the service,” said Mr Overgaard-Nielsen.

“This is a crisis made in Westminster, and Westminster must respond.”

The Dept of Health says NHS England, which commissions dentistry has not reported any widespread difficulties in recruitment.

“We are absolutely committed to supporting dentists and making sure the public can access top quality care,” a spokesman said. “There are currently more dentists working in the NHS than ever before and we are currently trialling a new reformed contract which if successful will be rolled out nationally.”

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