Empowering the Freelance Economy

COVID: what has happened to all the self-employed dentists?

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The measures announced by the Chancellor last year to support the self-employed during the COVID-19 outbreak did not support the majority of self-employed dentists, The British Dental Association (BDA) has reported.

“Self-employed dentists have faced huge uncertainty in the face of COVID-19,” said BDA.

The BDA warned nearly a year ago that means-testing of support for the self-employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic would have a potentially catastrophic impact on large parts of the dental workforce, particularly those providing private care.


While the self-employment income support scheme has been extended in the 2021 Budget, eligibility criteria will remain the same as in the third grant, meaning self-employed dentists with average income of over £50,000 a year will not qualify.

While support measures were put in place for NHS contract holders the vast majority of high street dentists operate ‘mixed’ practices combining elements of state and private care.

While practice owners may be able to benefit from some relief via support for businesses, the self-employed associate dentists working under them are likely to have been hit hard, reported the BDA.

“Many self-employed dentists working in largely or exclusively private practice have seen their incomes fall to zero,” said Chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee Dave Cottam in a 2020 report.

“When NHS dentistry is already stretched to breaking point, letting private practices go to the wall would be criminally irresponsible,” said Cottam.

1% pay rise

Responding to the Government’s recommendation to the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) for a 1% pay rise for NHS dentists in the 2021 to 2022 pay round BDA Deputy Chair Peter Crooks said: 

“Ministers seem to have forgotten that NHS dentistry can only survive if it is capable of attracting and retaining talent.

“After a decade of real terms pay cuts we need all hands to the pumps to address unprecedented access problems and widening inequality.

“A return to austerity pay will come as a body blow to a service facing a deeply uncertain future. If the DDRB is truly independent it will offer a fair deal that ensures NHS dentistry can remain sustainable,” said Crooks.

Need someone to talk to about financial hardship?

The BDA understands this is a stressful time and members should be aware that they have access to a 24-hour counselling service. Associates in significant financial hardship may also speak to the BDA Benevolent Fund about their situation and the possibility of financial aid.

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