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The effects of NHS dentistry problems - A patients' guide (Pt.2)

10 Nov 2023

4 min read

By Dr. Azim Malik
Specialist Periodontist and Implant Surgeon

Click here for part one of our two-part patients’ guide to NHS dentistry.


Well, the impact is always on the patient.

It’s the patient that loses out.

What are the problems with NHS dentistry?

First of all, there's a nationwide recruitment crisis so dental practices can’t find dentists that want to do NHS work.

The practices still have the NHS contracts because NHS contracts are big – they are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

So no practice wants to give up on that contract – but they might not have access to a dentist to fulfil that contract.

So recruitment has become a big challenge because many dentists are now coming in and saying: “Actually, we don't want to do any NHS work. We’ll come and work for but we want to work on a private basis.”

What are the issues in dentistry UK?

So a lot of the practices are running on locums (a dentist who steps in to cover shifts) – but locum rates for dentists aren't as good as they are for, say, general practitioners.

So that model's not working and obviously patients are not being seen.

It’s as simple as that.


So disease is not being diagnosed and a chronic disease like gum disease is then being left for a longer period of time.

And, ultimately, when that patient then decides to go and seek treatment from NHS or private providers, the damage is much greater than if it had been picked up earlier.

It has now become difficult in some cases for people to sign up to a dentist as an NHS patient.
I think, even if I wasn't a dentist, I would certainly support the dentists with this because I worked under the NHS system for many years and I couldn't wait to leave.

In 2017, I left and I've never looked back.

It was a huge relief.

And it's the same across the medical and healthcare field.

The dentists are receiving continuous pay cuts and there comes a point when you can't afford a basic standard of living.

Private dentistry

But dentists are lucky because, since the early 90s, they’ve been able to work under two contracts – the private contract and the NHS contract. They can choose between the two.

So the reason why you'll never see a dentist go on strike is because they're not reliant on the NHS for their income.

Practice owners can go private tomorrow. The practices belong to them – they don't belong to the NHS.

They can sack off the NHS contract and that’s what’s happened.

That's why you won't see the dentists on strike.

Dentist can just say to patients: “All right, well, it's private, come and see us privately.”

Whereas medical practitioners cannot.

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