Seventy per cent of dentists plan to leave the NHS within five years

With many dentists reflecting on their future in the profession, Nigel Jones wonders how the Government is going to provide NHS dental services, particularly to priority groups.

It’s an incredibly sad reflection of the NHS and the pressures that dentists feel under, that the majority don’t see themselves working in the system in 2022.

What’s even sadder is that, of the 70% of respondents to the NHS Confidence Monitor survey who don’t envision being in the NHS in five years’ time, 27% intend to leave the profession altogether.

And that isn’t through the ‘natural wastage’ of retirement, a further 21% said they planned to retire, that is people who have decided that dentistry is no longer the career for them.

The remaining 52% who plan to leave the NHS indicated that they intend to move to private.

NHS dentists unhappy

Looking at the full results of the survey, this desire to leave the NHS is perhaps unsurprising.

The figures show that NHS dentists are unhappy about all the elements of working in the NHS that they were asked about, including remuneration, ability to provide the level of care they would like, work/life balance, and the time they have to manage patient expectations.

Some might say that it would suit the Government’s agenda if more than half of those planning to leave the NHS moved to private, as it would allow NHS dentistry to slowly decline without having to take any firm action.

However, I believe, perhaps less cynically, that this should actually be a major concern for the Government due to the challenges it would present in terms of how they could then adequately service a population with a huge amount of need, particularly the priority groups.


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Young dentists plan to leave NHS

The Confidence Monitor results are also validated by BDA research, which showed that 58% of NHS dentists are planning on turning away from NHS dentistry in the next five years.

The BDA’s results also showed that 53% of young NHS dentists (aged under 35) intend on leaving the NHS, and almost 10% say they will leave the profession entirely, in the same period.

Lately I have met and spoken with several young dentists embarking on their career, and have been impressed by their passion and enthusiasm for helping patients improve their oral health.

It is more than a shame that the NHS, and those who use its service, will not benefit from this.

A wider healthcare issue

This withdrawal from the NHS is not restricted to dentistry either, other areas of healthcare are also experiencing a similar situation.

Just some of the recent media reports revealed that 40% of GPs are planning to leave the NHS, and one in 10 nurses are leaving the NHS in England each year.

These kinds of headlines are just the tip of the ‘crisis-hit NHS’ media coverage iceberg.

The pressures facing the wider NHS have been extensively reported on in the press, and rightly so, but this can only exacerbate dentists’ lack of confidence that current funding levels will be sustained.

When you take all this into account, and add in the ongoing uncertainty about England’s dental contract reform, the result is, unfortunately, a tough future for NHS dentists and little cause for optimism among those who already feel they are struggling.


You can read more blogs and listen to interviews with leading dental professionals here.

Comments (4)

Great and about time to end the systemic organised neglect the curent nhs dentistry system is providing! However I have many doubts here

The question is where will those dissatisfied dentists go to and why are NHS dental practices selling at ludicrous high prices still after all these earning figures and surveys?!

I deeply believe there is a deep cultural issue with how people perceive dental care here in the UK and “going private” won’t be possible for the majority.
The people of the UK expect their right to be fulfilled for free or subsidised care… hence I expect many more years of cheap undervalued dental care delivered by many disillusioned clinicians waiting for change with no choice but to graft and cut corners to earn a living with a further decline in ethical practice!

Good luck to all

Couple this to 3 other factors and you have the makings of a dirty bomb which will wipe out nhs dentistry.
1. Overpriced nhs practices and restrictions to starting nhs squats – preventing access for younger dentists to take charge of their own clinical & business careers
2. Obnoxious and greedy principles who work part time or don’t practice at all
3. Corporates in general who treat their associate population without any regard or understanding of their clinical responsibilities

All associates 90% of GDPs have already left the NHS, they have never had an NHS contract. Leaving the NHS is a meaningless term for them. Those who have an NHS contract will get someone else or close their contract if it is unprofitable

I resigned from the imposed NHS Contract in 1990, steam rollered by HMG onto a poorly led profession whose leaders were claiming a “ bright future for our wonderful dental work force and deserving patients”.
FACT:BDA will accept the new system of delivery,dentists will say they will withdraw services,dentists will be replaced by 3 year trainees who will be known as Generalists.Dentists will HAVE to become Specialists to extend their clinical scope beyond fillings and scaling.
PS In protest,I also resigned from the BDA in 1990

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