The results from our latest NHS Confidence Monitor Survey of over 400 NHS and private dentists revealed that those working in the NHS are overly stressed and anxious. 89% said they were unhappy – including 54% who were ‘very unhappy’ – about their ability to carry out work without feeling overly stressed.
72% were unhappy about their ability to achieve a good work/life balance and 95% were anxious about the risk of complaints/litigation – 45% were extremely anxious in this area. In contrast, private dentists were much happier about all aspects of their working life compared to when they were working in the NHS, although 67% were also anxious about the risk of complaints/litigation.
We turned to Professor Ros Keeton, Chairman of the BDA Benevolent Fund, a charity that helps dental students, dentists and their families deal with a range of issues including stress and anxiety, for her thoughts on the survey results…
‘The results from the Confidence Monitor survey add to the body of evidence that demonstrates the high levels of occupational stress felt by UK dentists. If pressures, anxiety and worry about work are not or cannot be managed, for whatever reason, this can have an impact on work, careers and family life and lead to an increased risk of burnout and emotional exhaustion.’
Younger dentists asking for more help
‘At the BDA Benevolent Fund, we help dentists in all areas of the UK and at all stages throughout their career, NHS and private. We are seeing increasing numbers of younger dentists at associate level as well as dental students seeking support.
We are often contacted by dentists suffering from emotional distress looking for guidance due to problems with financial matters or debt. Dentists that come to us describe how their difficulties affect their health and ability to work or continue studying, and talk about stress and mental ill health.
Anecdotally we know that worries stem from performance or ‘confidence’ at work and fear of litigation as the survey also demonstrates. For the dentists that we see, they are afraid to take time off to restore their work-life balance or deal with their mental ill health.’
Stigma is a barrier to seeking support
‘Our help is tailored to the individual and often in the form of crucial financial assistance but also a friendly and helpful voice, someone who will listen as well as signposting to other sources of help. In the words of one of our applicants;
‘You were a great support to me and I would like to thank you for your help and professionalism. Having a kind, sympathetic and understanding ear made a big difference.’
Dentists applying to the BDA Benevolent Fund highlight the stigma attached to sharing concerns about their mental health difficulties and this is an additional barrier to dentists accessing or reaching out for help.
For dentists experiencing work-related stress, there are a number of sources of personal support, guidance and advice. The BDA Benevolent Fund is one such source but there are others. Peer support for highly stressed dentists is essential, whether that be through one of the dental charities like us, or the BDA, Local Dental Committees, and through informal local networks.
Being able to confide confidentially in a trusted colleague who is able to understand the dental world and can empathise is highly important. The dental family or community has a vital role to play.’
To see the full results from the NHS Confidence Monitor click here.
This is the fifth time the survey has been conducted but is the first time private dentists were included in the respondents. Previously the survey has focused on the profession’s confidence in the future, but this time it was exploring dentists’ happiness levels.