Millions of pounds of funding returned by NHS dentists

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NHS dentists in England returned almost £150 million worth of government funding last year after failing to meet their treatment targets.

This is according to a new analysis by the Financial Times, which looked at data on general dental services (GDS) contracts from the NHS Business Services Authority. 

In the years 2022-23, dentists returned £147 million to the government after thousands struggled to hit UDA treatment targets.

The analysis found that some areas were particularly affected. For example, in Somerset, 17% of funding was returned in 2022-23 – three times higher than the nationwide average of 5.5%

Across the south west, the level of money returned increased from 7% in 2018-19 to 13% in 2022-23.

Low morale

Last month, NHS England published a report on the working patterns, motivation and morale of primary care dentists throughout the UK.

The results of the survey suggest that motivation and morale have dropped since the previous report. Around two thirds of the respondents said they often think of leaving dentistry.

Northern Ireland was the only region in which morale had improved slightly since the previous results.

The report is based on findings from the Dental Working Patterns Survey. This was sent to all dentists in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland who had completed any NHS work in 2022/23.

The survey was last completed for 2020/21.

In addition, the report indicates that dentists are working fewer hours per week, with an average of 35.6 hours. Associate dentists reported lower working hours of averagely 33.6 hours per week, while the average for principal dentists was 41.4 hours.

Male dentists had averagely higher working hours than female dentists overall. However, female dentists younger than 35 and older 45 worked more hours per week than males in their age groups.

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