Business confidence among dentists has taken a downward turn as they prepare for the prospects of a new NHS contract and continued economic uncertainties, according to new research.
The latest twice-yearly Lloyds TSB Commercial Healthcare Confidence Index shows that the short term confidence of dentists has fallen 20 points, since the first survey in October 2011.
Once again, the outlook of GPs was the least positive of the three primary healthcare providers researched, followed by pharmacists and then dentists, whose previously positive score suffered the biggest fall in confidence.
The findings are based on a combined ‘Confidence Index’ drawn from responses to a number of questions, canvassing primary healthcare providers opinions on overall business confidence and outlook for the future profitability of their businesses.
Where any figure greater than zero represents a positive outlook and figures below indicate a negative one (the maximum value achievable is plus 100 and minimum value achievable is minus 100), GPs registered minus 62, an overall shift of minus one to an even less confident position.
This compared to minus 42 for pharmacists – an eight point uplift – and a 12 point fall of minus 38 for dentists, indicating that GPs are still by far the most uncertain of the likely impact of forthcoming NHS reforms, while pharmacists are the only group heading towards a more positive outlook.
Dentists’ collective long-term confidence (looking ahead over the next five years) fell three points to minus 67 since the last survey.
Dentists were split on whether NHS practices would remain the most profitable with:
• 26% saying they would
• 33% saying not
• 41% unsure.
A surprising 43% of those undertaking NHS work said they had experienced some ‘claw-back’ in the last year and over half (53%) expressed doubt that the new contract will be adequately funded.
Only 29% of all dentists believe they will still be working to an NHS contract in 10 years’ time.
More than 30% of private dentists who responded to the survey admitted that they may be encouraged to take on NHS work, having had an increasing number of requests from their private patients.
Despite this, when asked outright if they would take on NHS work, 69% said that they would not.
Ian Crompton, head of healthcare banking services for Lloyds TSB Commercial, said: ‘Pharmacist confidence has improved to a degree, GPs have remained the most uncertain but dentists really seem to have lost confidence since our first survey in October 2011.
‘Back then, they stood out as the only group among their healthcare peers who had any positivity about the short term future of the profession.
‘The Health & Social Bill may now have passed but the debate has clearly unsettled NHS dentists who are facing their own contract changes in 2014 and private dentists are still feeling the impact of the economic downturn.’
Other report findings include:
• 58% of dentists are confident in the future of healthcare provision to patients in the UK, yet the same percentage expect NHS services to reduce to some degree over the next five years
• 86% of dentists are expecting their financial pressures to increase over the next five years
• 42% expect a reduction in profits
• 32% of dentists would encourage their son or daughter to follow them into the profession
• 59% would like to be involved in premises ownership
• 29% are expecting to have to move premises within the next five years
To view the full Lloyds TSB Commercial Healthcare Confidence Index, visit www.lloydstsb.com/healthcare and to take part in the next Healthcare Confidence Index visit www.healthcareconfidenceindex.co.uk.