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Software of Excellence Blog

The new challenge in dentistry: Staff shortages and wage inflation

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In the past two years UK dentistry has faced unprecedented upheaval. Starting with the closure of general practices in May 2020, right through the expense of additional PPE and fallow time, dentistry has found it difficult to return to pre-pandemic service levels. Now, as we experience the ‘living with COVID’ period, the profession is still encountering significant challenges caused by external circumstances, largely out of the control of dentists themselves.

The impact of Brexit, combined with the legacy of those practices that reduced staff numbers when patient demand was low, and many years of training too few dentists, has resulted in a perfect storm that leaves the profession, and patients, in a situation where demand is far outstripping supply. The BDA describes NHS dentistry as being in ‘crisis’ saying, “every dentist lost to the workforce and every unfilled vacancy result in thousands more patients losing access.”1transparent_SOE_SWITCHING TO EXACT_MAKING A PLAN_530X740

A survey conducted by the BDA earlier this year found that two thirds of practices have unfilled vacancies for dentists and Ben Flewett, Managing Director at Software of Excellence, commented on the situation by saying, “We're currently unable to satisfy the level of patient demand and the limiting factor is access to clinicians. As a practice owner, the challenge used to be about how to attract and retain patients. This has completely changed in many areas of the country, and it's now all about attracting and retaining dentists. It's a complete shift in the focus of the business of dentistry.”

The issues are not confined only to the public sector. Those providing private care are also under pressure, caused by staff shortages and also now from the inevitable wage inflation which is a natural result of the supply and demand see-saw and the general rise in the cost of living. Anecdotal reports of dental nurses being ‘poached’ from competitors offering huge salary increases to ‘jump ship’ are rife. And according to Adzuna (a job search engine), there are multiple reports of ‘signing on bonuses’, sometimes of up to £15,000, being offered to dentists. This month, the question of wages has been answered by {my}dentist2, the UK’s largest dental provider, which has announced an average wage increase of 5%, effective from 1st July 20223.

A combination of these factors is helping to drive profession-wide wage inflation and adding to practice overheads, which inevitably puts pressure on dental teams to increase the throughput of patients and deliver greater efficiency.

Avoiding FTAs (Fail to attend) and short notice cancellations is an important starting point in the efficiency battle and automating as many administrative processes as possible helps to streamline patient flow and reduce the stress on hard-pressed receptionists. Being aware of a practice’s FTA rate, its recall success, treatment blend and hourly rate by provider, gives practice owners a complete overview of where their business is, and this data is accessible through practice software systems. Such foresight enables dentists to see problems before they become critical and take corrective action.

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Attracting and maintaining staff is of course linked to remuneration but it is also about making your practice a more competitive place to work. Every clinician has different needs and motivations, and the key is to understand each individual and create a more flexible working environment. Ben [Flewett] explains how software solutions can help, “We now have solutions that enable practices to offer dentists the opportunity to complete some of their work in an evening at home. But it's not just about the dentist, it's about the whole team. We have some strong capabilities that allow practice teams to work in a very different way - care coordinators and receptionists for example - these roles can now be done very effectively from outside the practice.”

Keeping control of overheads and having full visibility of all the costs within a business are the first steps in maintaining efficiency and growing profitability. Dental software systems contain all the data needed to make informed decisions about what is and isn’t affordable in terms of wages, enabling principals to create a wage structure rather than reacting blindly to the demands of individuals.

 

Importantly, having knowledge about the performance of your practice in relation to key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you benchmark your practice against the top performers in the sector. Software of Excellence regularly provides these industry-wide statistics to those on its Customer Success Programme, giving principals the insight necessary to make information and independent decisions.

 

Keep control of overheads and have full visibility of your practice performance with the help of the experts at Software of Excellence contact us now.

You can listen to the thoughts of Software of Excellence Managing Director Ben Flewett in his latest podcast, which is also available on all major podcast platforms, including Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify.

1 https://bda.org/advice/Coronavirus/Pages/Updates-from-week-commencing-23-May-2022.aspx

2 https://www.the-dentist.co.uk/content/news/my-dentist-announces-record-salary-investment-for-all-employed-roles

3 https://bdnj.co.uk/2022/06/01/mydentist-announces-record-salary-investment-for-all-employed-roles/