The Brexit effect on UK dentistry – are NHS associates damaged goods?


Last week I asked whether any of you had felt a difference caused by Brexit.

Predictably, responses were mainly “no difference” because the majority of us are just getting on with life whilst our politicians negotiate the deal that none of us really care about anyway.

However, there were two responses that I pulled out of the hat, heavily edited to protect the authors, and I present to you here, for no other reason the to stimulate your thinking.

The first from a travelling implantologist inside NHS corporate dentistry:

The corporates have relied massively on European dentists to provide the dentistry. 

Well, since Brexit, they have stopped coming. So if a dentist leaves, they are not being replaced, meaning the remaining dentist’s workload is massive and waiting lists locally are extensive. Those dentists look at breaking point and almost all are looking around for an exit to private practice or away from corporate dentistry. I haven’t met any yet that are thinking of going back to their home countries. Yet. 

How this impacts – well we find recruitment of new dentists very difficult. In our area, with the local grapevine, these corporate dentists are essentially ‘damaged goods’. They have been under-providing their NHS patients (because of the above constraints) and they couldn’t then be touted at a private practice as ‘the new greatest thing!’ as the locals would know where they had come from. So independent practices will have to recruit from afar – not easy with a shortfall in new graduates, especially in rural areas. 

The other side is that the slow decline of the corporate sector has meant that patients are facing up to the prospect of having to dig a bit deeper for their dentistry and are now rocking up at the doors of the private practices in the area. They need to make sure that “open for new patients” is on that door and that they exceed their expectations when they do show up.

So it may well be that the exodus of European graduates is not necessarily from these shores but from the companies and sector in which they currently work. Notwithstanding my contributor’s concerns about locally “damaged goods” (don’t shoot the messenger), there is perhaps a recruitment opportunity here for independent Principals – offering an escape route from the Borg and the UDA treadmill?

From north of the border:

The primary impact affecting the business is increased costs in terms of dental materials and lab bills as a result of the fall in the £ against the € and $.

From a Scottish point of view, the change to the income tax regime for Scottish tax payers in my opinion carries a risk of clinicians choosing not to work in Scotland as Associates, Hygienists, Therapists are likely to pay more tax than their colleagues in the UK.  Although that’s not really a Brexit issue.

“Come south – it’s cheaper!”

I never thought I would hear that.

Well that’s my curiosity satisfied for now – and thank you to those who did respond, even with a “no difference”.

Back to work.



Published by

Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.