Survey findings released showing primary care dentists' morale, motivation and working patterns

NHS Digital must be quoted as the source of this information.

The Dental Working Hours 2016/17 and 2017/18 is a report on the working patterns, motivation and morale of self-employed primary care dentists2 in England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, drawn from the biennial Dental Working Patterns Survey3.

Leaving general dental practice

In England & Wales:

  • 62.7 per cent of principal dentists4 said they often thought about leaving general dental practice in 2017/18 compared to 57.2 per cent in 2015/16
  • 56.1 per cent of associate dentists5 said they often thought about leaving general dental practice in 2017/18 compared to 47.6 per cent in 2015/16

In Scotland:

  • 69.3 per cent of principal dentists said they often thought about leaving general dental practice in 2017/18 compared to 57.1 per cent in 2015/16
  • 57.1 per cent of associate dentists said they often thought about leaving general dental practice in 2017/18 compared to 45.9 per cent in 2015/16

In Northern Ireland6:

  • 64.0 per cent of principal dentists said they often thought about leaving general dental practice in 2017/18 compared to 59.2 per cent in 2015/16
  • 52.1 per cent of associate dentists said they often thought about leaving general dental practice in 2017/18 compared to 51.1 per cent in 2015/16

Other findings in the report include:

Time spent on clinical work

While it is generally the case that dentists work longer hours than they did when the survey was first undertaken, the amount of time spent on clinical work as opposed to administration and management has reduced.

  • In 2017/18, dentists in England & Wales spent on average 77.2 per cent of their time on clinical work, a decrease from 85.4 per cent in 2008/09 
  • In 2017/18, dentists in Scotland spent on average 78.8 per cent of their time on clinical work, a decrease from 86.1 per cent in 2008/09
  • In 2017/18, dentists in Northern Ireland spent on average 77.5 per cent of their time on clinical work, a decrease from 85.5 per cent in 2008/09   

NHS work and motivation

Multivariate analysis of the survey responses revealed a strongly negative relationship between the amount of NHS/Health Service work undertaken (as opposed to private work) and dentists’ levels of motivation7.

Morale

Dentists were asked how they would rate their morale.  Findings can be found in the report as follows: 

How dentists (%) answered the morale question by dental type and country 2017/18
Country Very high & high (%) principal Very high & high (%) associate Very low and low (%) principal Very low & low (%) associate
England and Wales 20.1 24.9 56.0 48.1
Scotland 17.8 22.3 61.6 52.2
Northern Ireland 14.3 21.1 68.0 51.6

Of those factors we asked about, the most commonly cited reasons for self-reported low morale were:

  • increasing expenses and/or declining income
  • risk of litigation and cost of indemnity fees
  • regulations (for principal dentists).

Other dental figures released today include the annual Dental Earnings and Expenses Estimate 2016/17 and NHS Dental Statistics for England 2017/18, which provides analysis on the number and type of dentists, dental treatments carried out, the number of patients seen, and other topics of interest6.

ENDS

Read the full report

Dental Working Hours 2016/17 and 2017/18


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Notes to editors

  1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of the health and care system.  Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend.  During the 2017/18 financial year, NHS Digital published 275 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.
  2. A primary-care dentist is a self-employed dentist who works in a primary, rather than secondary (hospital) setting, for example: a ‘high street’ dentist.
  3. The Dental Working Patterns Survey has been run every two years since 2008 in England & Wales and since 2010 in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Each survey covers two distinct financial years.  Contractual arrangements in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are different which must be taken into consideration when attempting to make any comparisons across the countries.
  4. The term “Principal” is used for simplicity of prose and refers to a dentist that holds a contract and provides dental services. In England and Wales, such dentists are known as Providing-Performer and hold a contract with an NHS England region or Local Health Board to provide NHS primary care dental services. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, Principal dentists are the owner, director or partner of a dental practice have an arrangement to provide NHS or Health Service primary care dental services.
  5. Associate dentists do not hold contracts. They are self-employed dental practitioners providing NHS or Health Service activity in agreement with the Providing-Performer or Principal dentist that holds the contract.
  6. These findings are based upon survey results and are therefore subject to sampling error. To mitigate this, we weight results to the population which gives us greater confidence in the findings. However, some results, particularly in Northern Ireland, are based upon low samples and should thus be treated with caution.
  7. The survey asked dentists how strongly they agreed or otherwise with six statements relating to their motivation which covered their attitudes to pay and recognition, challenge and progression, equipment and resources as follows.
  • I feel good about my job as a dentist
  • I receive recognition for the work I do
  • I feel my pay is fair
  • I have all the equipment and resources I need to do my job properly
  • My job gives me the chance to do challenging and interesting work
  • There are opportunities for me to progress in my career

Based upon the responses to the motivation questions, a score is calculated for each respondent. The relationship between this motivation score and dentists’ working patterns (such as weekly working hours, weeks of annual leave, the amount of time spent on NHS/Health Service or clinical and non-clinical work) can then be explored.  Further details are in the main report and its accompanying Methodology.

  1. This report covers work carried out by 'high street dentists', who account for the majority of dental activity, and work undertaken by dentists under vocational training. The publication does not cover dental services provided privately or activity undertaken in hospitals.
  2. For media enquiries please contact media@nhsdigital.nhs.net or telephone 0300 30 33 888.