Patient care ‘compromised’, fear dentists

Dentists fear their care for patients is being compromised.

A new BDA poll reveals that more than half of all salaried primary dental care service (SPDCS) dentists report fears that their ability to care for patients is being compromised.

Almost three quarters of participants felt their service was understaffed, with many pointing to an inability or unwillingness within their service to fill vacant positions.

More than half were concerned that current staffing levels were impacting on waiting times and threatening the quality of care patients receive, and these were prime contributors to low morale in the service.

Almost half of salaried dentists believed that their caseload was excessive. 

Of those, more than a third felt that clinical standards were being put under pressure, while over half felt they were not given sufficient time in appointments to complete all necessary treatment.

Respondents also expressed worries about a lack of clinical leadership and poor knowledge and understanding of the salaried service on the part of some non-dental NHS managers.

Those surveyed felt were less concerned with quality of care provided than on the levels of activity driven by targets and goals.

Dr Peter Bateman, BDA chair of the salaried dentists committee, said: ‘This survey highlights considerable pressure on salaried dentists from creeping erosion of their services and raises concerns about their ability to sustain high-quality care to the vulnerable patients they care for.

‘Employing organisations need to ensure their staffing levels and clinical management structures support their dental staff in providing quality care to patients, and seek to improve morale among salaried dental staff.’

The BDA survey was carried out with 415 salaried service members in July and August 2012.  The majority of respondents were aged 50-plus, over two thirds were women, three quarters were working in urban locations and two thirds had worked in the SPDCS for more than 10 years.

The findings were incorporated in the BDA’s evidence to the 2013/14 Doctor and Dentists Review Body (DDRB).

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