Address high stress levels among primary care dentists warns BDA

Dentists working in primary salaried care are more than twice as likely as other workers to experience high levels of job-related stress, a study by the British Dental Association (BDA) reveals.

The research involving 499 BDA members also found striking differences between the level of stress experienced by salaried dentists in England and the rest of the UK. In England, 37 per cent reported high levels of work-related stress, compared to 27 per cent for salaried dentists in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined. This compares with 15 per cent of British workers more generally who report high levels of job stress.

Time pressures, treating challenging patients, poor quality and unsupportive management were highlighted as the main sources of stress, the BDA research also found. This was exacerbated by high numbers of patient referrals, heavy workloads, unrealistic targets, staff shortages, and insufficient resources to meet patient demand.

The BDA believes employers must not only raise awareness of the causes of work-related stress in salaried dentists, they must also tackle the underlying causes to protect both staff and patients.

Dr Peter Bateman, BDA chair of the Salaried Dentists Committee, said:

The BDA research highlights yet again that many dentists in primary salaried services are experiencing unacceptably high levels of stress. This is exacerbated by a combination of staff cuts, ever increasing workloads, and being set unrealistic targets.

Service managers and commissioners need to take a hard look at how services are funded and resourced otherwise they undermine the ability of dentists to care for the most vulnerable patients in our communities.

"Increasingly, these services are being run by non-dentally qualified clinical staff. They do not understand the complexities of the dental work environment nor how this affects dentists in their day-to-day working lives.

Salaried primary care dentists must be able to call on effective and supportive management to assist them in managing the demands placed upon them.