Figures and facts

It has to be said that the Health and Social Care Information Centre annual report on NHS Dental Statistics for England is not an engrossing read.

The 2012/13 report was no different, the only plus being that it arrived this month, as often, in August when I am topping up the suntan in Gran Canaria.

The changes in numbers seen and treatments done are almost imperceptible. To see any change, we need to look back to 2006 when I need hardly remind you the current contract started.

29.8 million patients were seen in the 24-month period ending June 2013, an increase of 1.6 million on the March 2006 baseline, and 11 thousand fewer than the 24 month period ending March 2013. However in terms of percentage of the population seen the increase was from 55.8% to 56%.

However for children the picture is marginally different. The percentage of the child population seen during this period was 69.1 per cent, a fall of 1.6 percentage points on the March 2006 baseline despite an increase of 41 thousand (0.5%) in the actual numbers of children seen.

Courses of Treatment decreased by 249 thousand (0.6%) in 2012/13. The statisticians attribute the majority of the decrease to the phasing out of UDA credits for prescription-only courses. The pattern of change in UDAs broadly reflects those for courses of treatment. There are more Band 3 UDAs provided for non-paying adults, compared with those who pay. I am surprised.

What did surprise me was the composition of the workforce. The proportion who are associates has risen to 80%, with only 1 in 5 dentists being a contract holder. This may explain why so many BDA members went for the cheapest membership option. They don’t need expensive legal advice, just the facts. In addition, why should they have to pay for negotiations with government which will only indirectly affect them.

A total of 23 thousand dentists performed NHS activity during 2012/13, which is  3,041 more than 2006/07. The number of female dentists increased by 3.4% and they now represent  45.4%, the percentage of dentists in the general dental services. This has risen from 38.8% in 2006/07. Among the under 35’s 56.1% are female, compared with the are the 76.4% of dentists who are aged 55 or over who are male.

One day, maybe this will be reflected in the proportions of gender and age among the professions representatives. Alternative a few pigs may be encouraged to fly.

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