What Impact Might the Cost of Living Crisis have on Staff Recruitment and Retention across UK Dental Practices?

Over the last four decades, British families have experienced a slow, burning rise in the cost of many indispensable necessities that have hindered their possibilities of achieving true financial security. Every day, millions of households across the UK’s tough terrains continue to grapple with towering bills and day-to-day essentials, even more so now given that there has been a brisk stir in the UK’s current economic situation. A new survey by BMG Research sheds light on this hellish economic crisis as more than half of Britons say that they have become worse off in the past year, while a similar percentile believes this inflation would tighten their finances even more in the coming 12 months.

UK’s economy has long endured and sustained a tumultuous encounter of a national downturn and simultaneous uprise concerning the GDP growth or crash. The conversation around the economy and national financial status has been banal for the most part. That was until recently when it was reported by the Office for National Statistics that the consumer prices, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) were 10.1% higher in July of 2022 than they had been a year before. Not only has the CPI gone into the double digits for the first time in recent history but it has also hit an all-time high in 40 outstanding years, thereby intensifying a force on consumers and adding unprecedented pressure for action from the government as well as the Bank of England.

The cost of living in the UK has been a subject of concern for a good while now. However, now against the backdrop of ostentatiously grand prices for food, fuel, and other essential goods and services, many households face the biggest decline in income for the first time since the 1970s. What’s worse is that expert predictions forecast that inflation could hit up to 11% in autumn 2022. This unexpected inflation has been spurred on by several factors including the detrimental rises in national insurance (NI) contribution in Eastern Europe, increasing energy prices worldwide, and of course, the historic shock incurred by the COVID pandemic. 

This disbalance in rising demand from consumers and supply chain bottlenecks have made inflation a nightmare to live through. Unfortunately for many, living situations have continued to plummet. A recent report from Total Jobs suggested that 17% of people had taken a second job to boost their income since the cost-of-living crisis began, rising to 20% for essential workers. One-third of employees have also claimed to be considering looking for new and better-paying jobs to survive this financial downpour. Amongst these statistics are also dental personnel as the dental industry has very understandably also been sucked into this terrifying economic vortex.

What does inflation mean for the dental industry?

It is noteworthy that inflation has been running below the 3% belt for most of the period since the 2008 financial crisis. This has also coincidentally been the longest span of low-wage growth since the Napoleonic war 200 years ago. As inflation continues to bite, we have been observing even steeper health-related prices. The British Medical Journal outlined a serious impact on people’s mental health as a result of this inflation, also confirming that the rising costs could mean that the Governments’ pay award of 4.5% is far behind what dentists require to keep up.

A report from the YouGov survey estimated that 55% of British people have expressed concern over their health being sufficiently and negatively affected by the rising cost. A quarter of these individuals have also received a mental health diagnosis from a doctor or medical professional as a result of this monetary adversary. 

So, what could inflation and the rising cost-of-living expenses entail for the dental professionals and the industry as a whole?

First, we’d have to consider the drastic effects inflation would have on the recruitment and subsequent retention of the dental professional across the UK’s dental practices. Work-related costs have seen a substantial increase for most of the employees whether it has to do with the increased cost of working from home or the increase in commuting expenses. 

A wide array of committed health service practices are now struggling to recruit associates as most early career dentists are venturing into the private sector. Furthermore, recent reports show a shortage of candidates to fill vacant roles in numerous dental practices. This pool of already shrinking recruits has made it impossible for aspiring dental professionals to attend a practice that is satisfactory while also carrying the burden of the cost of living crisis. 

Today, finding and recruiting qualified, experienced dental personnel has become difficult, what with the additional staff costs, lab expenses, heating, lighting, materials insurance, and other rising expenses everyday commodities. In hospitals across the UK, these costs sullied by the pressures of inflation have been passed on to the customer. 

The BDA informs that in NHS dentistry, the government sets the price annually at a rate that does not take into consideration the costs to provide the care. Since NHS revenues have remained stationary for the most part, the NHS ratio of a ‘typical’ practice may reduce from the current 39.1 per cent. What this does is it prompts practices to hand back UDAs while at the same time, forcing them to focus on their private treatments to earn a salary that can outstand this economy. This has put businesses with a dental background or serving in the dentistry sector between a rock and a hard place. Practices are doubly compelled now more than ever to turn to the private sector to balance their books.

Owing to the increased (and increasing) costs of employment, it has been estimated that by next year’s survey there may be even bigger propositions regarding staff costs and practice compositions. NHS practices will be sitting at 20.5 per cent of the revenue, which does not match the average hourly rate of £9.13 being paid to the NHS dental nurses – which is lower than both mixed and private practices. The NHS practices will require a greater number of staff, therefore increasing the cost of employment. Thus, anticipated wage inflation could offer the added income needed in the individual’s battle against the rising costs of living.

The BDA also warns that inflation does not only mean rising costs for the workers and their employers. It could also mean that the UK health organisations are faced with workforces that are “unengaged, distracted, and unhappy” due to the state of their finances. This could adequately diminish work morale and make personnel retention even more difficult than it already is. In fact, a June 2022 research conducted by Ciphr found that nearly one in three (31%) of workers have taken on more hours at work to help pay bills. Additionally, two-thirds (68%) have admitted that the cost of living crisis is causing them to feel overwhelmed and stressed.

Inflation has entrenched in our societies with such ease that has become natural to be decisively defeated by its sudden emergence. The BDS has appealed to the government to apply an uplift of 15% concerning staff pay costs and 11.15% for other expenses. These numbers would ensure that the funding provided to practices to deliver NHS services is not cut in real terms. 

If you considering your future career options Dental Partners are committed to creating the Best Place to Work which in turn leads to the best patient care.  Dental Partners have become the Best Place to Work by finding the best talent, empowering Dentists and creating great teams. 

At Dental Partners it’s our commitment to be the best place to work that sets us apart. We can only do this by engaging, empowering and creating great teams which results in improvements in the quality of life by offering our patients great care and choice, whether it’s NHS or private dentistry. 

If you like the sound of Dental Partners please contact our dedicated talent team [email protected]


  • https://bda.org/news-centre/blog/Pages/Action-needed-to-combat-dental-inflation.aspx
  • https://bda.org/news-centre/blog/Documents/Final-paper-impact-of-rising-costs.pdf