The leaders of the UK's general dental practitioners described as 'derisory' the 2.2 per cent increase in earnings awarded by the government following today's recommendation of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Pay. The Retail Prices Index is currently at 4.1 per cent-anything less than this is effectively a pay cut.

Chairman of the DPA Joe Sullivan BDS said "The DDRB was responsible for the decline of the old NHS contract by never challenging or correcting when its awards were altered or devalued by the Department of Health-allowing dentists pay to fall way behind comparator groups. It has often allowed its independence to be questioned by recommending the award demanded by the Department. The new contract is sufficiently unattractive and uncertain for many of those on whom it was enforced, without this further clear signal that financial penalties are to be imposed year after year through below inflation awards".

President of the DPA Brian Levy BDS said "With the RPI at 4.1 per cent and the increase in dental practice overheads running well above this figure, this recommendation can only be viewed by our members as another pay cut. This will further reduce dentists' ability to provide anything approaching reasonable quality treatment for their NHS patients".

Chief Executive Officer of the DPA, Derek Watson BDS said "Dentists have suffered this year as a side-effect of the doctors' increases in recent years. The Review Body are hopelessly confused about how to set wages to retain dentists in the NHS. Three years ago they used the doctors' increase (3.225 per cent). Two years ago they used the Average Earnings Index (3.4 per cent). Last year (and again this year) with the RPI at 4 per cent they used the Hospital and Community Health Services increase of 2 per cent or thereabouts. No wonder dentists are leaving the NHS!

"It is not possible to provide a quality service on the NHS at one third of the cost of production. Dentistry is a good example of a service that was provided efficiently on behalf of the NHS in the private sector and since being 'nationalised' has turned into a complete disaster. The government has broken its promise to provide dental services to the nation in return for the high levels of tax and national insurance paid.

"DPA members who wish to take on more NHS patients are running into PCT funding buffers. Dentists who would see more NHS patients are being denied funding and their wages are decreasing in real terms. We are starting to see all the problems of the NHS in dentistry-funding crises, waiting lists and postcode lotteries. There have been worryingly large shifts in NHS prescribing patterns due to the new NHS contract, which have not been observed in the private sector".

Notes

The job of commissioning dentistry was given to Primary Care Trusts in April 2006 but the Review Body makes a recommendation for dentists' earnings, usually through a recommendation on fees. The DPA says the current system is inefficient, inflexible and unfair. Since April 2006 funding has been cash-limited on a like-for-like basis, limiting the number of new dentists that can be recruited into each PCT area. The DPA is calling for an immediate start on the review of dentistry promised in the 2005 Labour party manifesto.

Most dentists are self-employed subcontractors to the NHS. Unlike doctors, dentists pay for their own premises and their staff and materials. They are free to do as much or as little NHS work as they like leaving them free to move to the private sector if the differential in terms and conditions between the two sectors is large. The Dental Practitioners Association represents general dental practitioners in the UK.

Dental Practitioners' Association