As part of an effort to deepen the understanding of the dental workforce, the General Dental Council (GDC) will be asking dental professionals to share a few details of their working patterns as part of their annual renewal.
This additional work pattern data, which will be provided voluntarily, will help to build on the very limited workforce data that the dental sector can currently use.
The GDC is able to address this challenge as it is in the unique position of having the most complete data available, a list of everyone who is registered to practise dentistry across all the professions and the four nations of the UK. However, the registration data currently held only informs them who is registered with the GDC and does not provide details of what they are doing.
The responses the GDC receives will help it and others to understand better:
- Where dental professionals are working
- What they are doing
- The number of hours they are working
- Whether they are working in NHS or private practice
- How the way dental professionals work changes over time
All submissions will be anonymous, and the GDC will ensure no individual can be identified. Furthermore, the answers dental professionals provide will not affect their access to services or how the GDC treats them. The GDC will use the responses to undertake analyses, produce reports and make the data available to any external organisations and stakeholders who request it.
Helping the sector to understand its workforce better will inform discussions and support better decision-making to improve access to services in the future.
Gurvinder Soomal, GDC's chief operating officer, said, “We know that information about dental professionals’ working patterns is limited, which makes workforce planning challenging. Following discussions with many stakeholders across dentistry, we have decided to ask dental professionals to provide some additional information as part of their renewal process.
“Understanding the dental workforce will provide valuable insight for future workforce resource planning. Completing this is a valuable opportunity, as having a better understanding of our workforce and its needs can only help bring about the changes the profession and patients want and need.”
Commenting on the survey, Neil Carmichael, executive chair of the Association of Dental Groups, said, “We are delighted that GDC has listened to the concerns raised by ADG and others as to the lack of data on the disastrous state of NHS dentistry.
“For the first time, we will have a nationwide survey of dentists, which will throw light on the challenges faced by the profession – a welcome step in plugging the data gap.
“The results of the workforce survey will aid ADG’s own research on NHS ‘dental deserts’ across the UK, which found rural and more deprived areas less likely to have access to NHS dental care services.
“We urge GDC to make the (anonymised) results publicly available as soon as possible, as the information collected will be vital in informing the wider political debate on the future of dentistry in this country. This is particularly important in a general election year.
“The workforce survey is voluntary, and all information provided will be anonymised. The more dentists that respond to the survey, the more accurately the results will reflect the state of the workforce. We encourage all dentists to respond to the survey.”