Disturbing facts and fears

There’s the multi-million dollar question. If you had to do it all again, would you go into dentistry?

The BDA Northern Ireland’s recent submission to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into the Health Budget 2018-19, highlighted a number of disturbing issues, facts and figures.

It said, for example, that GDP incomes had reduced in real terms by between 25 per cent and 35 per cent over the past seven years, due to a combination of rising expenses and pay caps.

In Northern Ireland, the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body (DDRB) recommendations have yet to be considered, let alone implemented, as there is no government to do so.

Meanwhile, the cost of delivering National Health Service dentistry has risen by amounts well in excess of the maximum DDRB uplift of 1 per cent, further contributing to this fall  in income.

The BDA submission also highlighted the significant gaps in the oral health of the Northern Irish population and noted the sheer impossibility of reconciling the financial pressures dentists are being put under to deliver health service care and these oral health gaps, with the reported GDS underspend of £3.9m in 2017/18.

As if this were not enough, a recent survey of dentists across the UK, carried out by Dental Protection, found that 89 per cent are increasingly fearful of being sued by patients. 

Ninety-eight per cent believe that they live and practice in an increasingly litigious society, with 79 per cent concerned about the impact this is having on their welfare and the way they practise.

Alarmingly, 77 per cent admitted that the fear of being sued has caused them stress or anxiety.

So, is it any wonder that the data cited by the BDA in its submission suggests that 33.6 per cent of dental practice owners in Northern Ireland with a National Health Service commitment of 75 per cent or more reported their morale as ‘very low’, 29.5 per cent as ‘low’?

These multiple issues are clearly having an impact on the profession and, in a profession that is dedicated to the provision of care, it is important to then ask what impact this is having on patients.

I’ve written before about what a privilege it is to work alongside the dental profession and witness the positivity, innovation and dedication that continue to exist, in spite of all these issues.

I still see this, every day, but with more and more people and organisations now voicing significant concerns about the sustainability of the profession, is it time to ask ‘Has dentistry now reached its crisis point?’

And what support is really available to the dedicated individuals who keep going day after day to deliver excellent care and services to their patients, in the face of sometimes overwhelming pressures?

So, my question right at the beginning is a genuine one. Would you do it all again? And I would follow that up with another question – What is keeping you doing it now? Do you agree that dentistry is facing a crisis and, if so, what needs to be done to fix it?

You can read more about the BDA’s submission, and its recommended solutions to these issues in the magazine, but we would love to hear from you with your personal answers to all these questions.

Sarah Allen is editor of Ireland’s Dental magazine. To contact Sarah, email sarah@connectcommunications.co.uk or follow @sarelal on Twitter.

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Published: 1 December, 2018 at 18:30