Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Statistics reveal stagnant wages, gender pay gap for Northern Ireland dentists

By Dental Tribune UK
September 10, 2019

BELFAST, Northern Ireland: New data published by NHS Digital has revealed that real wages for UK-based dentists have fallen by at least 30% over the past decade, according to the British Dental Association (BDA). Adding to the dismay caused by this news was the revelation that a large gender pay discrepancy continues to exist. Self-employed male general dental practitioners earn an average of £38,000 more annually than their female counterparts.

The statistics form part of the publication Dental Earnings and Expenses Estimates 2017/18, which utilised anonymised tax data for self-employed dentists who undertook some NHS work during the relevant financial year. Among the more sobering facts was that the average taxable income of all general dental practitioners fell by 4.4% between 2015/16 and 2017/18. In addition, associate dentists were found to have experienced a decrease in income of 11.5% from 2016/17 to 2017/18, going from £59,100 to £52,300.

In comparison, the average taxable income for principal dentists rose from £99,100 to £116,000 from 2016/17 to 2017/18. Despite this increase, the BDA asserted that real wages for principal dentists have nevertheless fallen by 30% since 2008/09, and by 39% for associate dentists.

“These latest findings show once again that an unsustainable squeeze on dental income, with those most committed to health service dentistry facing the deepest cuts,” said Dr Richard Graham, Chair of the BDA Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee.

“The BDA has called for the urgent implementation of the 2.5% net pay uplift recommended by the independent Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration for 2019/20. We are also calling for the reinstatement of commitment payments as a significant step towards addressing the cumulative impact of rising expenses and a decade of below-inflation pay uplifts,” Graham added.

Of further cause for concern was the pay discrepancy between male and female self-employed general dental practitioners. Men in this category earned an average taxable income in 2017/18 of £87,600—substantially above the £49,600 average for women.

“From the headline figures, it does appear that there is a gender difference in earnings for dentists,” said Dr Susan Nelson, Vice Chair of the BDA Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee, when asked for comment by Dental Tribune UK. “However, the exact causes of this are not clear, with dentists’ net incomes influenced by a number of factors. The BDA will be seeking to investigate this gender difference as part of its ongoing work on dentists’ pay”.

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