NHS dentistry is Norfolk ‘running on fumes’ as figures reveal two thirds could leave profession

Stock photo of a patient having dentistry work. Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Stock photo of a patient having dentistry work. Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire - Credit: PA

NHS dentistry in Norfolk is 'heading towards the cliff edge' it has been claimed, as figures reveal nearly two thirds of dentists are thinking of leaving the profession.

Nick Stolls. Photo: Nick Stolls

Nick Stolls. Photo: Nick Stolls - Credit: Mercy Ships

National figures released by NHS Digital found 62pc of dentists who hold a health service contract said they often thought about leaving general dental practice in 2017/18 compared to 57.2 per cent in 2015/16.

In Norfolk, secretary of the local dental committee Nick Stolls said morale was at rock bottom, as declining income, the risk of litigation, and problems with recruitment and retention created a perfect storm.

Mr Stolls said: 'Morale is at all all-time low. It's running on fumes at the moment. We will find [dentists] will walk away completely or decide the private sector is much more attractive.'

Mr Stolls said there were a number of reasons for low motivation. One, he said, was the difficulty in recruiting dentists to Norfolk, as he said many young professorial wanted to work in urban areas. He also said a lack of a dental school in Norfolk made it more difficult.


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He also said increasing expenses and lower income was an issue.

He said: 'Over the last five years the [NHS] spending, what dentists are making, has gone down from £40.95 to £36 per patient, which is about 12pc. And costs have gone up by 1000pc.'

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Mr Stolls said all of this, combined with how NHS contracts were set up, meant dentists were under more pressure than ever.

For patients he said this meant they 'are having to travel further and wait longer for the care they expect to receive'.

The NHS Digital survey also found dentists take fewer weeks' annual leave than they did when the survey was first undertaken in 2006, while those in England, Wales and Scotland now tend to work longer weekly hours.

During the last decade there has been a notable drop in the amount of time dentists spend on clinical work across the UK, with administration taking up more time.

And dentists have also seen a drop in the amount of time they spend on NHS work. The data showed the more time dentists spend on NHS work, the lower their levels of motivation.

Mr Stolls added: 'Unless there is more investment there's simply not going to be an improvement in the current status. We're heading towards the cliff edge.'

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