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General election 2024: dentists call for wellbeing support

General election 2024: dentists call for wellbeing support

A survey found that 96% wanted political parties to include plans for wellbeing support for dental professionals in their manifestos.

A survey found that 96% of respondents wanted political parties to include plans for health and wellbeing support for the dental workforce in their manifestos.

The survey of 282 dental professionals was conducted by the Dental Defence Union (DDU) in May 2024. Eight in 10 (80%) of the participants also said they feel negative about the future of NHS dentistry.

As a result, only 17% of the dental professionals said they always felt able to deliver optimal patient care. A further 56% said this was possible most of the time, but 21% felt that it was only possible for half of the time.

One respondent said: ‘There aren’t enough hours in the day. We are trying to give the best patient care we can, but we have so many patients, it is difficult and stressful.’

Around four in 10 (41%) said they were planning to reduce their hours because of these pressures. Three in 10 (31%) were planning to leave or retire, while 45% were reprioritising their workloads.

‘The people who care for us need healthcare leaders and the government to care for them.’

John Makin, head of the DDU

John Makin, head of the DDU said: ‘The majority of dental professionals responding to our survey do not feel positive about the future of the NHS and this is something that should concern us all. These are professionals caring for patients day in day out and doing their best for them, often against the odds. Morale is clearly being impacted and it is no wonder that they are looking for politicians to offer them more support with their own health and wellbeing needs.’

What do dental professionals want to see in manifestos?

The main issues that the participants wanted political parties to address were:

  1. Tackle waiting times/access to NHS treatment
  2. Reform healthcare regulation by the GDC
  3. Tackle abusive or threatening behaviour by patients
  4. Clinical negligence claims reform
  5. Better support for staff mental health
  6. Better workplace facilities such as staff rooms.

John Makin continued: ‘Our members have made their views clear, and it should be a wake up call for all politicians in this election campaign. They want all political parties to include commitments in their election manifestos to support the health and wellbeing of the dental workforce. The people who care for us need healthcare leaders and the government to care for them.’

NHS Practitioner Health

In April, the government made the decision to axe NHS Practitioner Health coverage for hospital dentists and doctors. The service provides free, confidential NHS primary care mental health and addiction support to healthcare professionals. The decision was quickly overturned, though NHS England continued to be criticised for the last-minute announcement of the cut.

The programme has been extended for a further 12 months while a review of the needs of NHS staff is undertaken.

John Makin said: ‘As we await the political party manifestos, we hope this is a call to action for politicians to really offer meaningful support in caring for the carers.

‘Earlier this year, NHS England extended a programme whereby all clinicians would access mental health support from the NHS Practitioner Health programme, having earlier said secondary care clinicians would no longer be able to access the service.

‘This was a welcome reversal and we are now calling on all the political parties to commit to this support for the long term.’

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