NASDAL figures – are dentists overpaid?

Michael Watson questions whether the BDA is ‘crying wolf’ over the pay of dental practice owners.

The annual NASDAL (National Association of Specialist Dental Accountants and Lawyers) Benchmarking Report is a ‘must’ for anyone who wishes to comment on dentists’ pay.

This year’s event took place last week at BDA headquarters in London and I went along fully expecting a message of doom and gloom.

The figures, for GDPs’ gross and net remuneration plus expense levels were ‘harvested’ from tax returns of NASDAL accountants’ clients covering the year 2016/17.

Although over a year old, they are the most up-to-date figures we have and will form the basis of the next pay round (2019/20).

The reason for my pessimism lay in gloomy forecasts of two years ago, mainly from the BDA.

Back then pay restraint was in full swing, there was a cap on net earnings, only 1% for expenses, part of a process that led to NHS dentists in England seeing real incomes fall by 35% over the last decade and expenses, including GDC and indemnity, rising steeply.

But what did I find?

A dramatic fall in net earnings for those reliant on the NHS?

Far from it.

Practice profits increase

The report found that overall the outlook was positive, not negative.

NHS practices have seen an increase in net profit (per principal) of 3.2% to £136,270, with private practices doing a little better, an increase in net profit of 4.3% to £139,454.

The report has also seen a ‘big is better’ trend continuing with larger practices tending to do better.

Those practices with associates saw their net profit rise by £4,935 (3.6%) to £143,446.

Those without associates (single-handed practices) had an average rise of £1,982 (1.9%) to £107,896.

But for associates, who comprise nearly 90% of general dental practitioners, the picture was different – a fall in net earnings of 1.6% from £67,389 in 2015/16 to £66,318 in 2016/17.

It is not therefore surprising that BDA survey evidence suggests that over two thirds (68%) of NHS practices in England who attempted to recruit in the last year struggled to fill vacancies.

It perhaps explains why NHS practices are now being sold for over 150% of practice turnover, so desperate are dentists to become owners with an NHS contract.

It will make me no friends in Wimpole Street or the profession to question whether it is good value for money for the taxpayer to reimburse practice owners out of public funds for an amount approaching the pay of the Prime Minister.

Especially at a time when they are paying their associates less than half this sum for actually doing the work, in many cases.

I would also question the BDA’s policy of ‘crying wolf’ over the pay of practice owners who had a rise, in this time of financial squeeze on the NHS, of 3.6%, as opposed to the bulk of their members whose net pay was cut by 1.6%.

And cut, not by a ‘wicked Government’, but by practice owners and corporates, many of whom are also BDA members.


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Comments (5)

So there should be no reward for a practice owner taking all the risk when owning a practice? Entrepreneurial skills should not be celebrated? Return on investment not allowed?

Has the writer owned a dental
Practice in last 10 years and experience of this first hand?

There are many associates that have a reduced income as a result
Of some (not all) principals using them as a way of increasing their profit within a price controlled system. However this is not the general rule.

One would argue that if dentists have incomes approaching that of the Prime
minister then there is nothing wrong with that. Especially as there is little chance as a dentist to make a fortune after leaving the post with memoirs, personal appearances, and Non-Exec positions.

This author is out of touch kf the reality faced by practice principals. He has no idea of the burdeon and stress we go though NHS or private with the increases cost of regulation, ICO , GDPR, CQC etc. Also the rising cost of materials due to brexit and difficulty recruiting staff. Having to pay work based pensions also did nit exist when he was working in the field. Maybe someones ill formed opinions should stay just that and especially as he seems to be out of touch.

A partial sample does not a full and robust statistical fact make !!!

Whole HMRC figures show the truth, NHS profits down, Private work up and cross-subsidising and propping up the partial, limited NHS UDA discredited dental system in England !!!

Anyway PrimeMinisters should be paid £1million+ so they can be financially independent, not trying to make millions AFTER leaving post – however if staff decide to buy a building, pay for all staff, overhead and take all risks, bank loans and a decreased income for several years, then why shouldn’t they earn more in later years.

Indeed I’m quite concerned that ALL this extra time, stress and commitment to running everything, is only rewarded at double that of an Associte working 9-5pm with non of the additional risks, responsibilities, CQC requirements and loans etc – shouldn’t it really be treble or quadruple otherwise WHO would be a Practice owner ?!?

Of wait, I think I can see: why this IS decreasing now and less than 20% want the additional stress, risks or shortened lives caused by doing this post-2006 ?!?

As regards the NHS elements, the trend is downward profits and more cuts and clawbacks overall; but maybe it is time to acknowledge in gross-funding terms, HMG funding via the NHS Dental system, comes second now to Private/Patient funding of Dentistry in England – after all HMRC have ALL the figures, so should be easy to demonstrate, right ???

Yours Holistically,

Tony Kilcoyne.

How can profits increase when compliance costs go up 1100%? something is missing…the author is not giving out proper facts

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