The British Dental Association (BDA) is calling for a proposal to extend dentists’ working lives to the age of 68 to be abandoned by government.
The proposal is part of a raft of fundamental reforms government wishes to make to the NHS pension scheme.
Health trade unions, including the BDA, are consulting members on the acceptability of those proposals, the current iteration of which was arrived at before Christmas 2011 as the best achievable by negotiation.
The BDA call follows a survey of more than 4,000 dentists, which found that a significant majority of practitioners (68%) did not think it was safe for practitioners up to the age of 68 to continue treating patients.
A further 14% of respondents said they were not sure whether doing so was safe or not.
Practitioners’ concerns have been communicated to the Department of Health (DH) in a letter from Dr Susie Sanderson, the chair of the BDA’s Executive Board. The warning echoes that expressed by other bodies representing health professionals, including the British Medical Association.
The BDA survey also asked dentists whether they might, in principle, consider taking industrial action if they consider the proposals unacceptable.
The response to that question is being analysed and will inform a BDA Representative Body decision about the appropriateness of dentists participating in such action when the pensions proposals are finalised following further talks.
Dr Sanderson said: ‘A great deal of concern has been expressed about clinicians being asked to extend their working lives as a result of these pensions proposals.
‘Dentistry, like other careers in healthcare, can be very physically demanding. The wisdom of asking dentists to extend their working lives is questionable and, as this survey shows, a cause of significant anxiety to those best-placed to judge their own ability to carry on providing care to patients.
‘We are asking government to listen to these concerns and re-think this proposal.”
Details of the proposed pension reform and what they mean are available to BDA members at: http://www.bda.org/dentists/advice/pensions/.