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Too scared to do your job? The challenges facing younger dentists today

Blog Author Nikki Patel

Blog Date 24/07/2019

Photo credit: Getty Images

It’s a well-known fact that many patients still fear their dentist. What is perhaps less well known amongst the general public is just how scared many newly-qualified dentists feel about treating their patients, for fear of receiving complaints and the nightmare of ending up in front of an FTP hearing. 

Why is there so much fear? 

We surveyed younger delegates at the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show in May, and asked them about levels of stress and their concerns about work – two groups emerged from this. 

There are those up to five years post-qualified who said that fear of litigation and the GDC was what kept you most up at night, and those five to 10 years post-qualified, who raised issues about working under the NHS dental contract, the need for reform of UDAs to reduce increasing stress levels, and ensuring the terms of your associate contract are fair and workable. 

We’re are looking into why younger dentists are so afraid, particularly of patient complaints and being ‘hauled in front of the GDC’, perhaps on spurious claims. 

There has been a drop in FTP concerns being raised with the GDC, which is heartening to hear. But we know that many post-qualified dentists seem almost paralysed by a fear of ‘doing the wrong thing’, which could be impeding their skills and development. 

The GDC’s own research shows that actually there is a very high level of satisfaction with dentistry from patients. But the GDC has acknowledged that the profession has ‘lost confidence’ in the GDC in recent years, and it wants to rebuild this. 

Have your say on the future of dental regulation

We have been working with the GDC to raise our issues, and we are pleased their approach of late has moved towards involving the profession more in their core strategy. We will be responding to their current consultation on their draft Corporate Strategy for 2020-2022 – we’re always keen to hear members' thoughts too, if you have any comments, do get in touch.

One of the most striking things is that they are proposing to bring down their annual fee to around £730-£750. We have argued for many years that the fee levels are too high, especially for younger dentists who are just starting out, and we are pleased to see some movement on this. 

We do continue to argue for payment of the fee in installments, rather than as a lump sum at the end of the year – as this is especially burdensome for newly-qualifieds who have a whole range of other fees, indemnity and costs to pay out, before they’ve even had a chance to get their earnings up to speed. 

They have piloted a project engaging with dental schools to address the fear amongst dental students and we are pleased they are planning to roll this out and they plan to reach all first-year students.  

We believe that no young dentist should feel so scared when they graduate, it’s really important that newly-qualified should feel confident in their basic skills, and to be able to work and develop those areas that need more experience to be able to master completely, in a safe and supportive environment, without the looming fear of patient complaints. This an area our committee continues to focus on. 

BDA indemnity launched

The YDC has been briefed on the BDA’s new indemnity product, which launched in June, and we hope this is something members will consider looking into. There is such a wide range of indemnity products on the market and ensuring that younger dentists understand the difference between some of the key features of the products is so important.

I think most of us don’t find insurance all that thrilling but getting the right product for your needs is very important. We are privileged to have Len D’Cruz, formerly of Dental Protection, as our new senior Dento-legal advisor. We are offering advisory, case management and indemnity support directly from a team who are specialists in the dental field and who understand your situation– find out more in our FAQs.

Influencing dental contract reform and future training needs

On dental contract reform, we’ve proposed the YDC has a link to the General Dental Practice Committee (GDPC) Executive Sub-Committee, so that the views of associates are represented. 

The GDPC is the official negotiating body with Government on dentists pay and terms and conditions, but traditionally it’s practice owners that have stood for these seats. There are now a few younger members on the committee, but we want to ensure that everyone’s voice gets a fair hearing and we can only do that if a range of people stand up.

We discussed moving forward with some of our key strategic issues, including workforce and training, and our need to work with other BDA groups, including the Education, Ethics and the Dental Team Working Group (a sub-group of the BDA’s Principal Executive Committee), to move our agenda forward.

Health Education England’s Advancing Dental Care project continues, and we continue to keep a watching brief on this. 

I was pleased to see 12 candidates standing for our vacant seat on the YDC. It’s also great that there are quite a few recently-qualifieds amongst them, it’s heartening to see new grads willing to put their heads above the parapet, and work with us to make a difference.

In spite of the all the doom and gloom we hear about NHS dentistry, we believe dentistry is still a great career for younger professionals, and there are ways to forge your own path, ensuring you have work-life balance, and are doing things that are interesting and fulfilling, rather than just stressful. 

One way to do this is to take part, we know dentistry can be an isolating profession, so getting yourself connected is key.  There’s a myriad of ways to do this, and the BDA can help support you too, so go ahead, and build your skills and confidence, with the knowledge that you don't have to do it all alone.

Nikki Patel, Chair
Young Dentist Committee

Improving working lives for younger dentists

We support dentists at all stages of their careers and our Young Dentists Committee and GDPC Associates Group aim to be the voice of those starting out in dentistry and those mid-career.

They work on a range of issues, including pay and conditions, education and training, career pathways, the impact of dental regulation and stress in the profession, and dental health and science issues.

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