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Dentist earnings a postcode lottery

Dentists face a bewildering Œpostcode lottery when it comes to their earnings, after proposed increases were vetoed in England.

 

High Street

Salaried

England

+1.6%

+1% (but freeze if on progression pay)

Scotland

+1.7%

+1% (including dentists on progression pay)

Wales

+1.5%

No decision

Northern Ireland

No decision

No decision

 

Health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, sparked anger by rejecting an independent review body's call for an across-the-board 1% rise for salaried and hospital dentists.

Instead, dentists on Œprogression pay­, an annual increase, linked to length of service and skills­ will receive only that salary hike, not the proposed 1%.

And Mr Hunt also hacked back the recommended increase in gross earnings for general dental practitioners (GDPs) from 1.8% to 1.6%.

But dentists in Scotland will receive the full increases recommended by Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB), after the Scottish Government accepted them.

Meanwhile, the Welsh Government adopted a lower rise for high street dentists, but is yet to make a decision on salaried practitioners.

Northern Ireland is yet to make any announcements.

Furthermore, the English settlement will be repeated in 2015-16, after the health secretary took the unusual step of asking the DDRB to make no further recommendations next year.

Criticised

The announcement for England was heavily criticised by the British Dental Association (BDA) ­ particularly Mr Hunt's insistence that the proposed package was 'unaffordable'.

Dr Peter Bateman, chairman of the BDA's salaried dentists committee, described the suggestion that patient care would otherwise be put at risk as 'an insult to colleagues across England'.

He said: 'In taking the decision to offset increases against agreed incremental pay decisions, DH (Department of Health) has also ignored DDRB's view that to do so undermines a fundamental principle on which pay scales are based.

'Recent years have seen support for salaried primary care dentistry ebb away, as the BDA has pointed out repeatedly, with staff posts not being filled and facilities left to decline.'

The criticism was echoed by Dr John Milne, chairman of the BDA's general dental practice committee, he said: 'This is a deeply disappointing decision that will prompt many dentists to question the coalition Government's commitment to NHS dentistry.

'That such a decision should be taken at a time when dentists are already facing anxiety about the future, with the process of reforming the flawed contractual arrangements introduced in 2006 still ongoing, makes it all the more lamentable.'

Front-line staff the priority

But, in a statement to MPs, Mr Hunt said: 'Our first priority must be to ensure that the NHS can afford to employ the right number of front-line staff needed to ensure the safe, effective and compassionate care that patients have a right to expect.

'The DDRB's recommendations for a 1% consolidated rise for all staff, on top of automatic increments, are unaffordable and would risk the quality of patient care.'

Incremental pay increases, ­which chancellor George Osborne has vowed to tackle, already cost the NHS nearly £1bn a year and added 2% to salaries on average, he said.

However, DH later acknowledged that withholding the 1% rise from staff on progression pay would save just £200m from its £110bn annual budget.

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