Surprisingly, satisfaction with NHS dentistry services was as high as 57% in 2017 — pretty much the same as the year before, according to a survey conducted by British Social Attitudes. Quite remarkable given the rising tide of pain over the mad NHS quota system. It’s rough out there — as a glance at the news testifies.
- Big practices are going private, a sign the system’s crumbling. Canterbury’s oldest practice has pulled the plug on its NHS contract after 70 years. Bradley & Partners said it could no longer afford to offer the subsidised service, leaving 15,000 people without dental care. Queensway Dental in Teesside is going private after 25 years, leaving 12,000 people without dental care.
- Life in the NHS is horrible. 68% of NHS practices in England reported recruitment trouble in the past year and half had problems the previous year, according to the BDA. 58% of NHS dentists plan to leave in the next five years. If they do there will be more cases like the two My Dentist practices in Richmond and Catterick, which are closing on April 1 due to a problem recruiting and retaining dentists.
- Patient access is terrible. In 24 local authorities in England, dentists are only taking on private patients, according to the most in-depth analysis to date of information published on the NHS Choices website (Times, November 2017). Another report says patients are being asked to travel up to 70 miles for an NHS check-up. (Perhaps at some point people will notice that going private is cheaper and less hassle than a 70-mile drive.)
- The Scottish dream is over. NHS Scotland thinks it wants a two-year review for low risk patients, no more payments for six-monthlies unless they are deemed higher risk, possibly no more scale and polish, fewer items of service payments (read do more for less), changes to allowances for practices and possibly a domiciliary dentist at each practice.
Depressing, but only if you’re caught on the wrong side of this story. Here are some more reasons not to let that happen:
- NHS dentistry is thankless.If satisfaction is stable at 57%, that is already a toxic low, and the atmosphere is going to sour further as large numbers of dumped NHS patients struggle to reregister. Do you really want to play the bad guy for this (justifiably) unhappy lot?
- Private dentists are the only conceivable good guys in this story. Think about it, there’s no alternative happy ending for patients, and the longer they stick with NHS, the worse their experience is likely to be.
- The game is up for mixed practices.Two reasons: 1. unless you focus on high value treatments you’re dead, and this takes focus — yet mixed practices can’t apply strategic focus to treatment modalities; 2. NHS dentistry is a toxic brand that harms your credibility more than the contract is worth, and anyway, you can easily build your own list.
- Newbies who are suckered in will rue their decision.It’s easy to follow the herd. It seems safe. Banks and parents love the guaranteed income an NHS contract promises, but no one’s told them about the soul crushing morale crisis among clinicians, the angry patients, and the twitchy hand on the funding faucet in central government. Best of luck with that exit plan in 2038…
Wherever you’re at right now, there is only one sensible option: go fully private. If you’re not sure how to make this transition, talk to us, we can help.