Current State of Affairs: Dental Republic

Insight and summary of DentalForum UK 2017

Now in its third year, DentalForum UK 2017 proved to be a captivating event. Here, Luke Moore, Co-Founder of Dental Elite offers his insight into some of the points covered by the expert panel over the course of the two-day Forum held by OpenRoom in the Algarve, Portugal. The elite panel included: Julian Perry, Director of Strategy at BUPA Dental Care; Dominick Flanagan, Co-Founder of Centre for Dentistry; Steve Williams, Clinical Services Director at Mydentist; and Anushika Brogan, Managing and Clinical Director of Damira Dental Studios Ltd.

This year, the discussions were primarily focused on the current issues surrounding dental recruitment, and how they are beginning to affect the profession. Importantly, it is just not smaller, independent practices that are struggling to recruit, but the big groups and corporates too – even in the South East, which as we know wasn’t really an issue before. Indeed, it’s a similar story for every dental business right now, but an example from the forum that I feel really highlighted the extent of the issue was from Anushika Brogan, Managing and Clinical Director of Damira Dental Studios Ltd, who revealed that a recently advertised role in Oxford attracted one candidate who had 10 other interviews lined up. When you consider that once upon a time practices could advertise in the BDJ and get inundated with CVs, it is clear to see just how monumental this problem has become.

As part of this much larger issue, the panel took a close look at how difficulty in getting a performer number has had a knock on effect on recruitment. Historically, companies have capitalised on sourcing new recruits from other European countries, but because of Capita’s shortcomings in processing performer numbers quickly and efficiently (in some instances it has taken as long as 15 months), it is becoming less realistic to do so. In our current climate, overseas graduates simply can’t risk being out of work for that length of time – and where there has been delays in getting a performer number, you can guarantee this information has been passed on to colleagues back home. With 17 per cent of dentists currently registered with the General Dental Council from the EU,[i] a drop in European workers could have a dramatic effect on NHS recruitment.

Adding to this problem is the fact that most deaneries require European dentists to have at least six months vocational training, not to mention that finding a mentor is becoming increasingly more difficult. The role itself requires a lot of time and effort, particularly as there is a lot of administration involved, so there is a feeling of reluctance from many in the profession to take on this responsibility. And why would they, when they could be in the practice meeting targets and making money?

The panel also considered how the next wave of new graduates could affect the current marketplace moving forward. It was the opinion of some that the quality of clinical skills being taught in universities today is lower than in previous years. Graduates are also thought to have a greater fear of being sued than previous generations of dentists, which has ultimately affected their delivery of UDAs (many are thought to perform an average of 4,500 – 5,000 units compared to the expected 7,000). As a result, more and more practices are struggling to meet their UDA target, which has had an impact on profitability and the bottom line. This could spell disaster for underperforming practices in the long run, especially if it begins to affect goodwill values, as the panel predicts.

For practitioners looking to enter the practice property ladder, they may well experience recruitment issues as a result of this. We have already seen some of the big corporates take a step back from buying in certain places (such as Darlington and Middlesbrough) because of the ongoing issues – and this will only get worse if the problems continue.

From my point of view, practice acquisitions must be approached with caution for the foreseeable future, especially in those areas where we are seeing underperformance in UDAs. As for the recruitment market, there is no denying that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to fill certain vacancies in the UK. As you would expect this problem is even worse in rural areas, but even more urban areas such as Oxford and Bedford are beginning to be affected, which is something to watch out for going forward.

DentalForum UK 2017 certainly provided food for thought for my colleagues and I. Let’s hope that we begin to see more positive change – if you have any questions in the meantime, get in touch.

[i] Cavendish Coalition. Submission to House of Lords EU Internal Market Sub-Committee. Accessed online May 2017 at file:///Users/officeone/Downloads/House%20of%20Lords%20Inquiry%20-%20EU%20Internal%20Market%20Sub%20Committee%20FINAL.pdf