29 Jun 2022

Half of dentists concerned they will be unable to clear backlog, survey finds

Half of dentists concerned they will be unable to clear backlog, survey finds

Half of dentists are concerned they will not be able to clear the backlog of patients caused by the pandemic, a survey has found.

The dental defence organisation MDDUS surveyed about 2,000 of its members to investigate how healthcare professionals’ experiences in the workplace had changed between the first and second year of the pandemic.

Eighty-two per cent of dentists in Scotland said the backlog from the pandemic has led to delays in treatment, and complaints from patients.

Stephen Henderson, head of the dental division at MDDUS, said dentists “urgently need support” from policymakers.

The survey also shows almost half (49%) of Scottish dentists are more concerned about the risk of patient complaints or legal action than they were in 2020.

More than half (52%) said they have considered early retirement or leaving dentistry altogether since the start of the pandemic.

Of those, 55% cited mental health and wellbeing as a reason for doing so.

Mr Henderson added: “Dentists and their teams are facing verbal abuse from increasing numbers of patients when trying to manage appointments and treatment choices.

“They’ve told us that dealing with the backlog is making them consider taking on fewer NHS patients or exiting the profession altogether.

“These pressures are having a significant adverse effect on the mental health and wellbeing of dentists and their teams.

“Dentists urgently need support from policymakers, not least to reform NHS contracts, as they work through waiting lists that built up during Covid-19.

“The impact these pressures are having on dentists will only get worse if measures aren’t taken to improve access to NHS dentistry.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said there has been “considerable progress” regarding access to NHS dental services, and pointed to the revised payment arrangements announced in April this year which reward NHS dental teams according to their activity.

“We have seen more than 232,000 examination appointments in April compared with a monthly average of 125,000 for the first three months of the year, an increase of 85 per cent in one month,” she said.

“We are also on track for around 700,000 examination appointments in the first quarter of these new arrangements, evidence that we are tackling the backlog in routine dental care, and ensuring the sector is able to quickly return to more normal levels of activity.

She said progress has been “interrupted because of the unique challenges of the Covid pandemic”, adding: “It is our ambition to re-gather that momentum and ensure we have a NHS dental service that is unequalled in the world today.”

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