We’ve made the case for fairer pay uplifts to the Government’s pay review body. Here’s what you need to know.
The BDA delegation to DDRB (details below). Photo (c) BDA
NHS dentistry can’t exist without NHS dentists. People are the mainstay of this service, and we’re not shy to talk about their pay. It’s fundamental to making the NHS an attractive place to build a career.
That’s why each year we ask our members to
provide the evidence on pay and morale. We then use this to make our pitch to the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB), the body tasked with providing recommendations on pay.
It’s abundantly clear from your feedback that this service won’t be propped up by goodwill that’s increasingly thin on the ground.
1. The recruitment crisis isn’t going anywhere
Responses from members across the UK shows the sustainability of NHS services remains on a knife-edge.
This is no blip, but the new normal. Over 66% of practice owners in England reported difficulties filling vacancies.
It’s the same story in Community Dental Services, where evidence now shows half think their service is understaffed. This follows years of decline in the number of posts filled, where for every three posts that opened, only two were actually filled. In dental academia, meanwhile, vacancies remain stuck at over 10% among Senior Clinical Lecturers. And they now face new uncertainties over the USS pension and HEE’s Advancing Dental Care.
2. More NHS still equals lower morale
The Health Secretary recently expressed his pleasure at NHS staff survey findings on ‘across the board’ improvements in morale.
However, those figures leave out NHS GDPs entirely and disguise the deep challenges facing CDS, 80% of whom are facing burnout, with two-thirds doing unpaid overtime.
Over half our GDP respondents have had their fill of targets and a decade of pay cuts. Morale remains lowest, where NHS commitment is highest and where vacancies are hardest to fill.
Wherever push factors outweigh the pull factors you will find professionals planning their exit strategies. We’ve been clear it is the duty of our pay review body not to give any more reasons to colleagues to reduce their NHS commitment, retire early or to leave this profession entirely.
3. Patients are seeing the results
Wherever these vacancies go unfilled there are the patients that go untreated.
The government’s own data shows over 4 million adults in England are missing out on the care they need. We’ve found a similar picture in Wales, with families facing over 100-mile round trips for services.
Failure on pay is being felt by families across the UK. Governments like to talk about ‘record-breaking’ numbers of dentists, comforting themselves by counting heads, not NHS commitment.
4. Prepare for another IOU
It has taken months for past recommendations on uplifts to translate into pay increases, and often more than a year in Northern Ireland where the 2019/20 award has only just been approved.
In England and Wales, delays mean uplifts on contract values come inexcusably late into the financial year. This leaves practices struggling to provide back pay to dentists who have moved on, including FDs who leave at the start of August.
The foot-dragging from all four health departments is completely unacceptable, and we’ve taken that message to both the DDRB and to HM Treasury.
Bizarrely no one seems ready to ensure our Review Body has the time to deliberate and to provide hardworking staff and contractors with a pay uplift in a timely manner.
5. It’s time for consistency
You don’t need to be an economist to appreciate an uplift the wrong side of inflation amounts to a pay cut. Pay restraint has hammered every part of this the service for a decade, with falls with no parallel in the UK public sector.
We have made our case for uplifts the right side of inflation. If the DDRB wants NHS dentistry to have a future, it has a responsibility to use its independence and offer realistic recommendations. This is, in our view, a 5% uplift.
Post-election, NHS funding pledges are being written into law with workforce challenges to be addressed.
Governments in Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff, and Stormont need to treat us consistently. The rhetoric being applied to pay, pensions, investment, and workforce support cannot leave out dentistry.
Our GP colleagues are benefiting from extra resources and are seeing an expansion of tried and tested policies to aid recruitment in communities struggling with access.
The same logic must be applied to dentistry. The reintroduction of commitment payments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland alongside a decent pay award represents a bare minimum to show the next generation that a future in the NHS can offer recognition and reward.
Eddie Crouch, Vice-Chair, BDA Board
Charlotte Waite, Chair, England Community Dental Services Committee
Pictured at top of page (from left to right): David McColl, Chair Scottish Dental Practice Committee, Richard Graham, Chair Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee, Eddie Crouch, Vice-Chair BDA Board, Tom Bysouth, Chair, Welsh Dental Practice Committee, Charlotte Waite, Chair, England Community Dental Services Committee, Dave Cottam, Chair, General Dental Practice Committee.
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