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Report examines UK dentists' morale and motivation

8 December 2016: Dentists' morale has generally fallen, according to official statistics published today.

The report "Dental Working Hours - Motivation Analysis 2014/15 and 2015/16", from NHS Digital, collected survey responses from more than 6,000 self-employed primary care dentists across the UK. The findings show that morale has fallen since 2012/132 and that half of primary care dentists who treat NHS patients often think about leaving general dentistry.

Despite this, over half of dentists (57 per cent) report that they have the opportunity to do challenging and interesting work and 55 per cent agreed that they feel good about their job. However, the report also found that the more time dentists spent on NHS work, the lower their levels of motivation3.

The report explores the relationship between dentists' motivation and morale and their working patterns, considering in particular:

  •  Weekly hours of work
  •  Division of time between NHS and private dentistry
  •  Division of time between clinical and non-clinical work
  •  Weeks of annual leave
  •  Age

Information is provided for dentists on different types of contract - those who are Providing-Performer/Principal dentists, effectively owning their own business, and those who are Performer Only/Associate dentists, working for a practice. Separate information is available for dentists in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Read the full report at: 


Notes to editors

1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology provider for 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 2015-16 financial year, NHS Digital published 294 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better. NHS Digital is the new trading name for the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). We provide 'Information and Technology for better health and care'. Find out more about our role and remit at

2. The percentage of dentists reporting "very high" or "high" morale levels decreased between 2012/13 and 2015/16 for all types of dentists except Principals in Scotland, where there was a slight increase in 2015/16 only.

3. When responding to the six motivation questions (A-F, below), those dentists who do more private work (0 - 25% NHS/Health Service share) recorded a higher percentage score of "agree" or "strongly agree" compared with colleagues who do mainly NHS/Health Service work (75 - 100%). The only exception to this is Associate dentists in Northern Ireland in their response to question D where 46.5% of those doing mainly private work agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, compared to 46.6% of those doing mainly Health Service work.

4. The analysis in this report is based on answers to a series of motivation and morale questions included in the biennial Dental Working Patterns (DWP) Survey which was sent to all primary care dentists in the United Kingdom who conducted some NHS/Health Service work in 2014/15 and/or 2015/16. All dentists included in the analysis for this report answered every motivation and morale question in the survey for the year(s) that they worked. Response rates were 25 per cent (4,929 responses) in England and Wales; 41 per cent (381 responses) in Northern Ireland and 33 per cent (780 responses) in Scotland. Where appropriate, weighting has been used to ensure the sample is representative. The six questions covering motivation were:

A. I feel good about my job as a dentist

B. I receive recognition for the work I do

C. I feel my pay is fair

D. I have all the equipment and resources I need to do my job properly

E. My job gives me the chance to do challenging and interesting work

F. There are opportunities for me to progress in my career


There was also one question relating to leaving dentistry and a final question addressing morale:

G. I often think about leaving general dentistry

H. How would you rate your morale as a dentist at the moment?


5. Note that different contractual arrangements exist for primary care dentists in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.  For the purpose of this report, a dentist in England/Wales is assigned a dental type based upon whether they held at least one contract with NHS England/Local Health Board (LHB) and had records of dental activity in the relevant year (Providing-Performer dentists) or if they only had records of activity but did not hold a contract with NHS England/LHB in the relevant year (Performer Only dentists).  For Scotland and Northern Ireland, a dentist is assigned a dentist type (Principal or Associate) as declared on their survey return.


6. Within this release, figures of 1,000 - 9,999 have been rounded to the nearest thousand. Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number. The term NHS is used to apply to England, Wales and Scotland; this is known as "Health Service" in Northern Ireland.

7. This publication is designated as "experimental statistics", which are new official statistics that are undergoing evaluation.

8. For media enquiries please contact or telephone 0300 30 33 888.

Last edited: 20 May 2019 3:21 pm