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16 October 2018

Christie & Co's first annual report on the dental industry highlights workforce trends & challenges

Specialist business property adviser, Christie & Co has published its inaugural report on the UK dental market, ‘The Dental Industry 2018: Staffing, Brexit and the Dentist Shortage.’ The report provides an overview of the dental market structure and presents leading market research on the sector’s dentist shortage and key staffing challenges, emerging workforce trends, and regional differences in relation to supply and NHS dentists' pay rates.

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The report highlights how the landscape of the UK dental market has significantly changed over recent years, as M&A activity across the sector has shown significant growth. The UK dental market comprises 12,500 dental practices, of which only a relatively small percentage are owned by corporate or multiple operators. This presents an opportunity for further consolidation in the market for the larger corporates but also smaller groups.

The dental workforce is composed of 116.2k registered dental professionals, including dentists, dental nurses, therapists, technicians and hygienists. Although the number of UK qualified dentists has grown year on year since 2014, greater domestic growth in new registrations will be essential to improve staffing, given the overall number of registered dentists who qualified in the EEA or overseas has decreased over the same period. Additionally, in 2017 the number of new registrations by dentists who qualified in the EEA dropped by 19% compared to 2016 and 39% over two years, and with Brexit looming, the supply of EEA qualified dentists could increasingly become an issue should negative growth trends continue.

The report aims to provide insight in relation to the shortage of dentists in the UK – one of the most widely acknowledged issues facing operators across the dental sector. Whilst a common issue, workforce pressures appear to be most visible in certain parts of the country, not only varying by geography, but also demographic factors, such as affluence and urbanicity. The supply of dentists and DCPs is most under pressure in Wales, followed by England, with supply least under pressure in Scotland and Northern Ireland. After taking population density into consideration, London has the greatest supply of dental practices and the lowest number of individuals per practice, while the Midlands has the lowest supply of dental practices after accounting for population density. 

Crucially, the report shows how regional variance in the supply and demand for dentists has influenced workforce trends and associate pay rates. Relatedly, staff recruitment and retention, staff quality and UDA contract fulfilment have emerged as the key challenges facing operators in the dental sector. Associates in the West Midlands are paid the lowest rates on average, with London interestingly found to be the second lowest paid region. The areas with the highest pay rates were the South West, Wales and the East of England, which were also identified as the more challenging areas for recruitment, therefore requiring higher rates to attract labour. The report highlights how more dentists are choosing to live and work in affluent areas and demonstrates there is a greater supply of dentists in urban settings thus allowing employers to pay lower, more competitive associate rates within cities and densely populated areas. 

Michael Hodges, Head of Consultancy – Healthcare at Christie & Co comments, “The Dental Industry 2018 report bridges the gap in information on workforce challenges impacting the dental sector following the release of our adult social care report on the care sector’s funding and staffing challenges published in September. Given the ongoing and widely reported pressures in the NHS and adult social care sector, it is essential the Government recognises that whilst there are some common issues, the dental sector will require more bespoke policy solutions.” 

Simon Hughes, Managing Director – Medical comments, “We are thrilled to launch our inaugural report on the dental sector, while celebrating five years since Christie & Co launched into the dental practice sales market. 

“While the report highlights key challenges facing the dental sector and especially operators, including UDA performance, staff recruitment and retention, demand for quality practices is exceeding supply in most areas and market segments across the UK. With an increasing number and variety of buyers seeking opportunities in the sector, there is no doubt that the dental market landscape is changing and diversifying. Cash flow generation, strong underlying profit potential and a fragmented marketplace have also made the dental sector attractive to banks and a wide range of UK and overseas investors. We can certainly look forward to strong interest across the dental industry for the foreseeable future.”