The results

More than 400 dentists have shared their feelings about
everything from how their role impacts their mental health to how they think
contract reform will affect them.

By completing the latest Dentistry Confidence Monitor
survey, NHS and private dentists have revealed the reality of practising today.

Below is an overview of some of the key ‘headline’ figures.
Or you can download
the report
for the full results and expert opinion from leaders in
dentistry.

84% of NHS dentists say their role negatively affects
their mental health

In comparison, 51% of private dentists reported that their
role has a negative effect on their mental health.

There is a growing awareness of the issue of poor mental
health among dentists. However, statistics like this show that it is still a
real challenge for many in the profession.

There can be many reasons behind these statistics. But,
some of the survey’s other results may offer some insight.

For example:

  • The majority of all dentists are anxious about
    the risk of complaints
  • The majority of NHS dentists and almost half of
    private dentists are anxious about their ability to meet the standards set by
    the GDC
  • Over 90% of NHS dentists are unhappy about
    their ability to carry out their work without feeling overly stressed.

89% of NHS dentists are unhappy/very unhappy
with the current NHS contract

This will probably not come as much of a surprise to anyone
remotely involved with dentistry over the past couple of decades.

Those at the plaque-face have long called for a change to
the way they are contracted – not least having their remuneration tied to UDAs.

Ninety-two per cent of NHS and 75% of private dentists
responding to the survey said it was important for the current contract to
change

And there has been recognition of the need for change by
those in charge. Following the Steele
Report in 2009
, a process began to begin testing a reformed
contract.

That process is still ongoing.

So, while it seems the need for change has been
acknowledged, progress has been frustratingly slow.

A reformed contract is due to begin being rolled out in
2020 – ostensibly from April, however, there is speculation that it will be
pushed back to later in the year, or even as far as 2022/23.

Over 80% of NHS and private dentists aren’t
confident in their knowledge of the reformed contract

Despite the fact that the reform process has so far taken several
years, without a new contract being rolled out, most within the profession
clearly don’t feel they know enough about what it actually means.

Or, perhaps, it is the very fact that it has taken so long
that has led to this lack of confidence. The longer it has taken, the more people
may have switched off.

Although dentists recognise their lack of knowledge, many
are still pessimistic about the impact contract reform will have.

The majority of both NHS and private dentists believe:

  • It will not work well for them and their patients
  • It will work well for the Government
  • Profitability will decrease
  • Workload will increase.

Altogether, this suggests a deep sense of mistrust of those
responsible for creating and implementing the reformed contract.

90% of NHS and 94% of private dentists don’t
believe the GDC understands the impact of its processes and procedures on
dental professionals

There has been a fairly fractious relationship between the
profession and its regulator for some time.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that there will always be some
friction between a regulator and the people they regulate.

But talk to any dentist about the challenges facing them
and they will undoubtedly bring up high costs including the GDC’s annual
retention fee, meeting regulatory standards and the threat of facing a Fitness
to Practise hearing.

And, for many, an advert placed by the GDC in a national
newspaper in 2014, encouraging patients to complain directly to them if they
were unhappy about treatment, still leaves a bad taste.

While the GDC does seem to have acknowledged the need for
reforming dental regulation, with the publication of recent documents such as Shifting
The Balance and Moving Upstream
, for dentists it seems it
can’t come soon enough.

When asked about their feelings towards the regulator, the
majority of both NHS and private dentists feel:

  • Unconfident that a complaint against them would
    be handled appropriately
  • Unconfident that the GDC is doing a good job in
    protecting the public
  • Unconfident that the GDC is making sufficient
    progress with addressing challenges such as those outlined in Shifting The
    Balance
  • Are likely to support the idea of the GDC being
    dissolved and a single regulator formed to prevent the duplication of other
    regulators’ duties.

Download the full report

Overall, the message from this survey is clearly a cry for action. Substantial change needs to happen to address some of the serious issues raised in surveys like these, and we can only hope that those in positions of authority and influence heed the call of dentists. Download the report to see the full set of results.

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