All the responding practices see recruitment of dentists as a significant problem. All of them have tried to recruit in the recent past, in some cases to replace retiring or departing dentists, but all have been unsuccessful so far. One practice says it has given up trying, because the cost and time involved with going out to recruitment is a “waste of money”.
Those spoken to recognise that this is a national problem (with NHS remuneration a key factor in that), but some consider it especially hard in a location like the west of Dorset. They refer to its relative remoteness, distance from large population centres and from major transport links. They also note there is no dental training facility nearer than Bristol and that trainees often start their careers close to those facilities.
Healthwatch Dorset make an interesting observation, that the impact of a gap in NHS dental provision is arguably greater somewhere like the west of Dorset, since the next nearest provider will be some distance away. In a large town or city, there will usually be other providers nearby.
Interestingly, one of the local dentists is an accredited ‘mentor’ for a newly arrived dentist from overseas, who is seeking to gain their NHS registration to practice in the UK. Additionally, an organisation that manages one of the local practices says it has recruited a dental trainee just out of university (albeit not at their local practice).
One local practice has somebody in a dental therapist role. That person has the training and experience to enable them to undertake basic treatments, such as simple fillings and extractions (which can be as NHS work). This approach allows the fully qualified dentist to focus more time on diagnostics and complex treatments.