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Spending on dentistry drops

Michael Watson reports on the latest estimates showing real-term spending on dentistry in the UK is now 13% lower than at its peak in 2009/2010.

The fourth edition of Dentistry UK Market Report (Laingbuisson, 2014), values the market at £5.8bn in 2013/2014, with £3.62bn (63%) of this spent by government and patients on NHS dentistry, and £2.2bn generated from private dentistry (37%).

The report says that dentists struggled to maintain private revenues during the recent economic downturn, leading to a contraction of this market of more than a fifth (22%) in real terms over the last five years.

At the same time government austerity measures have seen spending on NHS dentistry fall behind RPI inflation, contracting by 7% in real terms overall in the last four years.

Elsewhere, Dentistry UK Market Report reports that the funding of private dentistry by dental plans was less affected by the economic downturn than private self-pay, as spending on plans edged down by only 2% in real-terms between 2008 and 2012 inclusive.

Laingbuisson, who published the report, also showed that the dental plan market was estimated to be worth £719m in 2012, with the bulk of this representing capitation (£503m), some £95m spent on dental insurance by individuals and employers, and the remainder (£121m) representing cash plan contributions.

Over the period this sector’s share of the market rose from from 9% in 2007, to be 13% in 2012, and further similar growth is projected for the medium term.

Corporate dentistry (groups of three or more practices), are now represented by 6,950 dentists in the UK, and it is valued at £1.3bn for 2013/2014.

Since 2010 when Laingbuisson last measured the corporate dentistry market, its size (in terms of dentist penetration) has moved up from just over 12% to the present 22%.

Laingbuisson expects private dentistry to get a lift from positive stable economy growth over the next four or five years, but believes changing consumer dynamics could transform private dentistry in the long term, as market power inevitably moves further towards consumers (patients), as dentistry providers compete more actively to attract private customers on price, convenience and loyalty.

Report author, economist Philip Blackburn commented: ‘There are a number of interesting dynamics going forward to shape primary care dentistry in the UK.

'The biggest game changer is the drive towards consumerism as dentists and dentistry groups compete to attract private customers as the private dentistry pie is smaller than it was, and dentist supply is greater than it’s ever been.’

On NHS dentistry he added: ‘The government has its work cut out to deliver wider NHS access and clear improvements in oral health without any significant real spending increases going forward.

'As a central purchaser NHS England is looking to generate commissioning efficiencies, and the new dentistry contract (which could be rolled out in 2016 or 2017), focused on a prevention care pathway, is being introduced to deliver net pay-offs in the long-term.

'While these may be achievable on paper, there remains an underlying scepticism that any model based on more patient time with a dentist, also means more money must be spent.

'And at the moment the NHS’s primary care dentistry budget doesn’t support this.’

References

Laingbuisson (2014), Dentistry UK Market Report (4 Edition) Laingbuisson: London.

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