The domino effect of Brexit

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Dental Elite’s Luke Arnold discusses the shortage of associates and DCPs – the domino effect of Brexit

There have been difficulties recruiting dental associates and other dental care professionals for some time now, but as our exit from the European Union looms ever closer the cracks are beginning to widen – especially in NHS dentistry. The profession is on the brink of a recruitment crisis, and it’s worse than was originally anticipated.

According to new evidence released by the British Dental Association in February of this year, 68% of NHS practices in England who attempted to recruit in the last year struggled to fill vacancies, and 50% of the NHS practices that attempted recruitment reported issues in the previous year [1]. BDA Vice Chair Eddie Crouch attributes “The constant treadmill of targets and pay cuts” along with “Low morale” as contributing factors in the recruitment crisis, though there can be no doubt that Brexit has been hugely damaging to the profession as well.

Ever since the decision to leave the EU was announced, the UK has been faced with uncertainty on how it will access workforce as well as doubt about economic and political stability. It was originally hoped that exiting the single market would free up £350 million a week to be spent on the NHS, but there has since been significant backpedalling from pro-leave campaigners.

Instead of the positive outcome that was originally suggested, many now believe that Brexit is the “Biggest threat to the future of the NHS.” This was the opinion expressed in a letter issued from 100 elected officials comprising of MPs, MEPs and peers from five political parties. The letter claimed that, rather than being £350 million better off, a downturn in economic growth since the referendum means that there is actually less money available for the NHS [2].

This potentially means that there could be even fewer resources to recruit and retain associates and other dental care professionals. We already know from previous reports that 58% of NHS dentists plan to leave the service in the next five years [1], and news of harder times ahead could drive more into private practice – or worse, leave dentistry altogether.

Coupled with reservations about future rights of EU nationals and the fall in the value of the pound, there are growing concerns that European dental professionals will return to their own countries, leading to greater shortages. Hopefully, Theresa May’s announcement that EU nationals who have been in the UK for more than five years will be able to remain post-Brexit should encourage the workforce to stay, but if not, recruitment could become even tougher. There’s also the future to think about.

The profession has relied greatly on the EU to fill vacancies in recent years and make up for the country’s shortcomings in new recruits. It is deeply troubling, then, that EU citizens who arrive during the post-Brexit transition period (after March 2019 when the UK is expected to officially depart from the EU) may not be given the same residency rights as those who arrive before. Of course, we won’t know exactly what rights EU nationals will have until the release of the highly anticipated immigration white paper, which isn’t expected until early summer.

Originally scheduled to be published in the summer of 2017, details of the country’s future immigration system rest on the completion of the transition/implementation deal. Until then, we can only guess what the outcome may be – and hope that it will take into consideration dentistry and other health sectors’ demand for qualified workers.

Regardless, the clock is ticking for professionals who plan to start a career in the UK but have not yet arrived; especially dentists who still need to obtain their performer number. Between the fact that foreign applicants must pass the overseas registration exam before they can apply for their performer number – and Capita’s shortcomings in processing performer numbers quickly and efficiently – this process is taking up to two years in some cases. Should this continue, dentists are going to run out of time to qualify for residency rights. On the bright side, if post-Brexit legislation restricts UK-born dental professionals from moving to – and working in – other EU countries, at least more of our own workforce will be available to fill vacancies.

It’s going to be difficult moving forward there can be no doubt about that, but by working with leading government figures the profession can ensure strategies are in place to soften the impact. In the meantime, if you're struggling to recruit associates and dental care professionals to your practice, contact specialist recruitment agency, Dental Elite. With years of experience, extensive knowledge of the market, and an unrivalled network of contacts, Dental Elite can maximise your chances of filling a position.

Author:
Luke Arnold has more than 10 years’ experience working in the recruitment sector, and has developed his skills specifically within the dental industry since joining the team at Dental Elite in 2011. He is currently the Director of Recruitment Services for the company. For more information about Dental Elite visit www.dentalelite.co.uk, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01788 545 900

References:
1] British Dental Association: NHS dentistry facing recruitment crisis. Published 4 February 2018. Accessed online 6 February 2018 at https://bda.org/news-centre/press-releases/nhs-dentistry-facing-recruitment-crisis 
2] The Independent: Brexit is ‘biggest threat’ to the future of the NHS, say 100 MPs, MEPs and peers from five parties. Published 5 February 2018. Accessed online 6 February 2018 at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-biggest-threat-nhs-100-mps-peers-health-system-warn-open-britain-a8194166.html