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Dental Protection emphasises support as new survey reveals impact of staff shortages on wellbeing

Post date: 29/09/2023 | Time to read article: 4 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 03/10/2023

Over a third (35%) of dental professionals say they are not able to take breaks during the day to eat or drink, and over half (52%) say the impact of exhaustion on the delivery of quality patient care is affecting their mental health, according to a new survey.

In the Dental Protection survey of over 1,300 dental professionals in the UK, over a third (36%) also say fear of dentolegal issues arising from staff shortages is having a negative impact on their mental health.

Dr Yvonne Shaw, Deputy Dental Director at Dental Protection said: “Dentistry is still a rewarding profession – being able to improve oral health and the quality of life of the public is a privilege which instils a sense of professional satisfaction. However, morale in the profession seems to be at a low ebb, and wellbeing concerns are central to this.

“Demand for dental services remains high, the environment is increasingly challenging and there is a limit on what can be done within available capacity. Clearly some dental professionals are not taking breaks during the working day and are skipping meals, foregoing essential nourishment as a result. This is exacerbated by work overload and staff shortages.

“Dental professionals are among the most dedicated healthcare professionals, so I am not surprised that many put the concerns of their patients before their own; however, not stopping to eat and drink is concerning both for the health of the dental team and the adverse impact this can have on the delivery of care.

“One of the many problems with staff shortages is the knock-on effect on the mental health of remaining staff who risk becoming exhausted and/or demotivated. Over half of our members tell us they are worrying about how exhaustion and burnout are impacting the safe delivery of patient care. The effect of not being able to provide optimum standards of care on any healthcare professional’s mental health – due to external factors and pressures outside of their control – cannot be overstated.

“Many members also tell us they work in fear of becoming embroiled in dentolegal issues arising due to staff shortages, and that this constant worry is having a detrimental impact on their mental health. I would like to reassure all members that Dental Protection is here to offer support in the event of a claim, complaint or other dentolegal issue arising from your professional practice.

“I would also encourage members experiencing work-related stress to make use of our 24/7 counselling service and other wellbeing support which is a benefit of membership with Dental Protection. The service is provided through a third-party partner and is completely confidential.”

Dental professionals who participated in the Dental Protection survey commented anonymously:

“It is apparent to me that the dental industry is a hostile place to work. I fear answering my phone or checking my emails, waiting for developments in the dentolegal case against me, or heaven forbid any further cases should arise. I genuinely try my hardest every day and always put my patients first, and genuinely believe 99.9% of the patients I treat are happy, but after one dentolegal case my confidence is at rock bottom.”

“Staff shortages are putting pressure on other staff members.”

“I cannot recruit an associate dentist to look after patients and meet targets and so I face a big clawback which will have a severe financial impact on the running of the business.”

“Being a young dentist, dentolegal issues are looming over my head. Especially from patients who have worked the system to their advantage and attempted the same techniques (esp. with young dentists or female dentists or dentists of colour). The anxiety has affected the way I work, my professional goals and physical wellbeing.”

For further information contact [email protected]

  • The Dental Protection survey was completed by 1,379 dental members in the UK. The survey was in the field from 20 March to 17 April 2023.

Key findings:

  • 52% of dental professionals worry about the impact of exhaustion or burnout on patient care.
  • 35% are not able to take breaks during the day to eat/drink.
  • 46% worry about the impact of staff shortages on the delivery of quality care.
  • 36% work in fear of dentolegal issues arising from staff shortages.

About Dental Protection

Dental Protection is a registered trademark and a trading name of The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”). MPS is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support and can also provide, depending on the type of membership required, the right to request indemnity for any complaints or claims arising from professional practice.

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.

MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.

About the counselling service

Our counselling service is provided by our trusted partners ICAS, who offer a personalised and professional service tailored specifically to your requirements and delivered by experienced qualified counsellors.

ICAS's telephone counselling provides immediate access to support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and face-to-face counselling sessions can be arranged near to you and at your convenience, all funded by Dental Protection.

The service is entirely independent and confidential. Dental Protection members can call ICAS now on 0808 189 4385 or +44 3300 241 021 from overseas and quote their Dental Protection membership number to book a free session.

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