Friday, September 19, 2008

Dentists bite back over £200k earnings claim

Sep 17 2008 by Madeleine Brindley, Western Mail

THE highest paid dentists in England and Wales are earning up to £200,000 a year, new figures reveal today.

Their earnings are more than double the £96,135 most dentists received in the first year of the new dental contract.

And they are 10 times higher than the average salary in Wales. The sheer scale of dentists’ earnings will be a bitter pill to swallow for those who are still struggling to find an NHS dentist in Wales.

There are still ongoing concerns the new dental contract has not solved the problems in NHS dentistry. It is feared people with the most complex dental problems are still struggling to find an NHS dentist because of the way the contract was organised.

But leading dentists last night said the official government figures did not reflect the reality in Wales, where some practices could have to hand back up to £70,000 to local health boards because they have not met unrealistic activity targets.

Dentists’ earnings were revealed yesterday as a nationwide survey suggested people are cutting back on dental appointments and eyesight tests as a result of the deepening credit crunch. Four out of 10 said they would not be having a £12 check up this year because of the financial climate.

Nick Bourne, Welsh Conservative Assembly leader, said: “People will be extremely surprised to learn just how much dentists earn each year when their own experience of finding an NHS dental place has proved so difficult.

“While investment in training, recruiting and retaining qualified, experienced dentists is vital, current evidence suggests the new dental contract is a missed opportunity to provide quality and accessible dental services across Wales.”

Jenny Randerson, the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ health spokeswoman, called on Health Minister Edwina Hart to again review the dental contract.

She added: “High costs would be more acceptable to patients and taxpayers if the contract was delivering improvements in access and availability of NHS dentistry in Wales.” Figures released by the NHS Information Centre, revealed the average earnings of a dentist in England and Wales was £96,135 before tax in 2006-07 – the first year of the contract.

The average gross earnings – from which all dentists’ expenses, including staff costs, equipment and energy bills must be paid – was £206,225. Expenses accounted for around 50% of that figure.

Earnings were even higher for those dentists who provide both general and personal dental services – an average of £199,545 in England and Wales.

A 28-year-old patient who has been unable to find an NHS dentist in Swansea, said: “It certainly doesn’t sit well that dentists are earning this much money when there are still people struggling to find a dentist. The wage does not reflect the comparative skills a dentist has or number of working hours he fulfils.

“This summer, I needed to find a dentist quickly in Swansea, where I had just moved, because of a problem with a wisdom tooth. The pain gradually worsened over a week or two but none of the dentists I phoned were taking on NHS patients.

“Thankfully, the situation got better on its own but, without being overly dramatic, it could have been worse. I still don’t have a dentist.

“There is no way I’d pay to go privately, especially not in the current climate. It may sound cliched, but is that not what I pay my taxes for? Yet when I need the service it’s not there. If a £200,000 wage was halved, you could have two dentists still working on what is still an extraordinarily high wage.”

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, said: “The report reveals the pay of NHS dentists varies greatly depending on contractual arrangements.”

Paul Bartley, a principal dentist in Rumney, said expenses were higher than the NHS Information Centre’s figure and an annual earning of £85,000 was more realistic. He said: “My associates make very good money but the figure of £96,000 seems somewhat excessive.”

And Stuart Geddes, director of the British Dental Association in Wales, said: “These figures do not tell the full story. They fail to take into account the clawing back of money from NHS dentists who have failed to meet the flawed treatment targets set for them.”

He added: “Dentists are highly skilled people working with hi-tech equipment they have invested in. It is a stressful job that involves long hours.”

Tina Donnelly, director of RCN Wales, said: “This is the first overview of dental salaries. It would be useful to have the average earnings of dental nurses and dental hygienists in order to have a complete picture of salaries in the profession.”

A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly Government said: “The new dental contract changed the way dentists are remunerated for NHS work rather than increase the amount paid to them.

“Under the old contract, dentists were paid retrospectively for items of service, whereas earnings are now paid monthly based on the services they have agreed to provide. There is a wide variation in the earnings of dentists providing NHS care.

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/health-news/2008/09/17/dentists-bite-back-over-200k-earnings-claim-91466-21835209/

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