Dentists’ Working Patterns, Motivation and Morale – 2022/23


NHS England has today published details of the working patterns, motivations and morale of dentists in the General Dental Service (GDS) for 2022/23.


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Previously, national reports had been prepared separately; the Working Patterns report has been published as a UK report each of the past four years. Below we only cover the key points of Northern Ireland.

It is important to note that values ​​are not comparable between countries due to different contractual arrangements in each country and the use of different methods to determine tooth type.

Please note that all data comes from NHS England.

Key points on working patterns, motivation and morale for GDS dentists in Northern Ireland 2022/23

The report includes key insights into working patterns, motivations and morale among individual primary care dentists in Northern Ireland in 2022/23. Information is provided on average weekly working hours, annual leave weeks, division of time between medical services and private dentistry, clinical and non-clinical work, and measures of motivation and morale.

The key findings from the GDS 2022/23 survey of individual dentists in Northern Ireland are as follows.

  • NHS/health service activities (as part of all dental activities)hSupport fell in all countries, with Northern Ireland seeing one of the biggest declines since the last survey (from 72.6% to 62.7%).
  • The time spent by dentists in Northern Ireland on clinical work has increased overall over the past decade, reaching 82.4% in 2022/23.
  • The weekly working hours of both the Chief Dentist and Associate Dentist have decreased since the last survey.
  • Overall, dentists reported working an average of 35.6 hours a week in dentistry in 2022/23, assistants working an average of 33.6 hours a week and principals working an average of 41.4 hours a week.
  • Overall, dentists of all ages spent more than three-quarters of their time on clinical work, with female associate dentists aged 35-44 spending the highest average proportion of time on clinical work (87.9%). Women of all ages spend more time working in health services than men, with women aged 35-44 spending more than 70% of their time working in health services.
  • Men work more hours per week on average than women across all age groups, but this is not always the case when health service hours are taken into account, with women under 35 and over 45 having higher average weekly hours than men.
  • For 62.1% of dentists, less than 30% of time is spent on health service correction activities. The majority of dentists (82.6%) stated that they spend less than 30% of their time on clinical orthodontic activities.
  • For general dentists and associate dentists, those with more than 75% commitment to health services spent more time on clinical work than those with lower commitments to health services. For primary dentists, less than 25% are dedicated to health services and spend most of their time in clinical work.
  • All dentists (principals and assistants) with 75% or more of the medical service workload reported higher average weekly clinical hours than those with lower medical service workloads.
  • Motivation and morale levels have fallen since the last survey of most dental groups in England, Scotland and Wales. However, in Northern Ireland the proportion of dentists who responded positively to motivation questions increased.
  • However, when responses to the morale level question were considered by dentist type, the percentage of associate dentists who responded positively to the morale level question decreased, but the percentage of principals who responded positively to the morale level question increased.
  • The most common factors contributing to low executive/lead dentist morale are increased expenses and/or decreased revenue. Problems with dental recruitment and retention in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland have become increasingly common since the last survey.
  • Around two thirds of dentists in the UK regularly consider leaving the dental profession (63.4% of principals and 66.0% of assistants in Northern Ireland).

[1] This publication was previously produced by NHS Digital; Health Education England, NHS Digital and NHS England have now merged into one organization called NHS England https://www.england.nhs.uk/nhs-digital-merges-with-nhs -england/

Notes for editors:

  1. Dentists' working patterns, motivation and morale 2022/23 Published only on the NHS England website: Dentists' working patterns, motivation and morale – NHS England Digital
  1. Please note that NHS England must be cited as the source of all data.
  1. GPs are independent contractors who provide dental treatments and appliances on behalf of the Department of Health Strategic Planning and Performance Group. Currently in Northern Ireland these dentists can only enter into one contract, General Dental Services (GDS). According to the GDS, they must provide a full range of mandatory dental services. A self-employed principal dentist is also the owner/partner of the practice; an assistant dentist is a self-employed dentist who enters into a contractual arrangement with a principal that is neither a partnership nor an employment relationship.
  1. NHS England is England's authoritative, independent source of health and social care information. Its role is to collect data, analyze it and transform it into useful information to help providers improve services and support the work of academics, researchers, regulators and policy makers.
  1. The report was prepared by NHS England in consultation with a working group reviewed by doctors and dentists from all health departments, all devolved governments, business support organizations from each country, the British Dental Association Composed of representatives from agencies and HM Revenue Service.
  1. The analysis is based on a sample identified by dentists who completed the Dental Work Patterns (DWP) survey. The results are weighted to reflect the nature of the working population in Northern Ireland, which is derived from a data set provided by business services organizations.
  1. For media inquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office via email: pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk.
  2. Follow us on X @healthdpt.
  3. The Administrative Information Services Office provides after-hours services For media inquiries only Monday to Friday, weekends and public holidays between 1800 and 0800 hours. You can contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.

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