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Private dentistry grows in UK as NHS spending decreases

A new report highlights that private dentistry services, often used for cosmetic procedures such as teeth whitening, are the main driver of the high street dental segment's growth. (Photograph: JJ-stockstudio/Shutterstock)

Thu. 7 February 2019


LONDON, UK: A newly released report on the high street dental segment in the UK has reignited concerns regarding a lack of funding for NHS dental services. The report revealed that an expanding private sector is set to be almost wholly responsible for this market’s forecast increase in value, while NHS spending on dentistry has decreased.

The report was collated by the market research company LaingBuisson and valued the UK high street dental market at £7.1 billion for 2017/18—a growth of 0.2 per cent, taking inflation into account. Of this, £3.6 billion was generated by private dentistry, while NHS spending was £3.5 billion. Overall, the report showed that NHS spending had experienced a real decrease of 1.2 per cent over the year and that the number of adults seen for NHS dentistry services had declined for the first time in recent years. As reported by Dental Tribune UK & Ireland earlier this month, since 2013/14, there has been a decrease of two million treatments delivered to patients exempt from paying NHS dental charges—a fall of 23 per cent.

Nevertheless, LaingBuisson predicted that this high street dental market will grow by an average of 2.0–2.5 per cent, in nominal terms, over the next three years. Though increased spending on private dentistry will mostly drive this growth, much of it is expected to depend on the fallout from the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

“UK dentistry has long-term drivers of demand: regular hygiene for prevention; desire for cosmetic dentistry and facial aesthetics to improve appearance; and progressive specialist treatment services which can offer a wide range of advanced dental procedures,” said report author Philip Blackburn.

“Private dentistry has grown well enough in recent times under a stable economic environment, and many dental providers seek opportunities for continued growth. However, future economic well-being, a key driver for the private market, is currently vulnerable. Modest UK growth is projected for several years, though Brexit holds a wild card on the economy and EU labour supply,” he continued.

"Investment interest in UK dentistry has been healthy and continues to be, as investors are optimistic about underlying demand conditions and scope for market growth in the long term. This has been highlighted by continued growth in corporate dentistry, which now accounts for over a quarter of UK dentistry market value,” Blackburn explained.

“At the same time, NHS dentistry is falling behind, and policymakers face a clear challenge to ensure demand for NHS dentistry services is being met across the UK. Contract volume shortfalls in England continue to keep a lid on higher activity, and many dental employers face significant recruitment and retention challenges for NHS work in certain areas, which are compounded by Brexit concerns,” he concluded.

NHS England recently came under criticism with the launch of its new ten-year plan, as no additional funding has been granted for NHS-provided dental services despite the plan’s focus on early detection, primary care and prevention.

The report, titled Dentistry: UK Market Report, is available for purchase here.

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