- 09 June, 2022
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The GDC commissioned Pye Tait Consulting to conduct research to explore the impact and future implications of COVID-19 for dental professionals and dental businesses. This was the second of two studies exploring the impact of COVID-19. It was conducted in Autumn 2021, following the first study which was undertaken in Autumn 2020.
The aim of this second study was to see how dental professionals’ perceptions and experiences of COVID-19 were evolving. It sought to understand the continuing impact on dental professionals in different nations and parts of the sector, and how this had changed since the first research in Autumn 2020.
The research involved an online survey of 2,168 dental professionals, six focus groups with 39 participants in total and five top-up in-depth telephone interviews.
This work forms part of a wider research and engagement programme to understand the impact and implications of COVID-19 for dental regulation, patients, the public and dental professionals, and to inform our business planning as we continue to live and deal with COVID-19.
Mental health. Wellbeing among dental professionals was found to be lower than the general UK population. Mental health and wellbeing was the most frequently mentioned factor by dental professionals influencing their career decisions.
Meeting patient demand. Findings suggest that there remains an imbalance between demand and supply, with dental professionals reporting that both patient demand and waiting times have continued to increase – evidence indicates that this is particularly the case for NHS treatments – suggesting a system that is currently overstretched. Demand is growing while supply is constrained by COVID-related restrictions, placing pressure on both NHS and private dental services to deliver care.
Safety. There was near consensus among dental professionals (98%) that they had the necessary skills to do their job safely. Nine-in-ten (90%) agreed that they were confident that they could do their job safely, that they had had the necessary training to do their job safely (90%), and that they had the right equipment to do their job safely (89%). Dental professionals believe patients’ confidence in the safety of their service has remained steady (49%) or increased (25%) since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Support needed by dental professionals. Dental professionals suggest that clearer, more consistent guidance, the development of a strategy to work with COVID-19 in the long-term, increased financial support, closer support and understanding, improved communication with registrants and the public, and COVID-19-related training and CPD, will all help to support the sector’s recovery.
Financial circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic was found to have a continuing major impact on dental businesses’ finances. Just over two-thirds (69%) of dental business owners said their current average monthly dental business income had decreased compared to average monthly income in the year before March 2020. Meanwhile, just over a third (35%) predicted their income would remain lower than pre-COVID levels over the coming 12 months, while just under a third (30%) believed it would remain steady. Significantly higher proportions of NHS or mixed sector workers reported decreases in income than those in the private sector for both these circumstances. Overall, however, dental businesses were more optimistic than at the time of the first research (Autumn 2020), with a significant decrease in the proportion of those reporting, or anticipating, a decrease in income. Responses from dental professionals suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be resulting in a shift by some from NHS to private work in terms of their income and working patterns.