The British Dental Association (BDA) supports Health Education England’s recommendations for sweeping action on stress across health professions including dentistry and has renewed its calls for parity in provision between National Health Service (NHS) dentists and general practitioners on occupational health.
The NHS Staff and Learners’ Mental Wellbeing Commission report builds on studies conducted by the BDA and other health associations on the costs of burnout and mental health to staff and the wider health service.
Recommendations include the creation of an NHS Workforce Guardian for primary care settings, tackling problems from the very outset of education, and rapid referral pathways for both students and staff to either a general practitioner or an occupational health clinician, dubbed “an NHS for the NHS.”
Almost half of dentists say that stress in their job is exceeding their ability to cope and that the most stressful aspects of their work are related to regulation and fear of litigation, the BDA says. Also, the BDA reports high levels of stress and burnout in its survey of more than 2,000 dentists in the United Kingdom, including 17.6% who admitted they had seriously considered suicide.
The BDA has called for funded access to the Practitioner Health Programme for NHS dentists across England on the same basis offered at present to general practitioners. The service provides a range of support and therapies for practitioners experiencing difficulties and is currently only directly accessible for general dental practitioners in London.
“It is refreshing to see officials waking up to the weight of evidence on stress and burnout in this profession. The logic of this report is sound. No NHS dentist or dental student should suffer for the work they do for the NHS. Now we will need to see these principles joined with action,” said BDA chair Mick Armstrong.
“There are dentists out there in desperate need of support, and they deserve access to services currently offered to our medical colleagues. We know the drivers fueling this epidemic of burnout, from regulation to the NHS treadmill, and we will need to see an approach founded on prevention, and not just cure,” said Armstrong.
“We want to find out what the causes of stress are so that we can find solutions to support dentists and to help foster positive working environments,” Armstrong said, adding that the BDA offers online resources and support for dentists.