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  Posted by: The Probe      8th May 2019

Dentists remain the most confident of all primary healthcare professionals, according to new research released today.

The Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking Healthcare Confidence Index – an annual survey of GPs, dentists and pharmacists on the outlook for their industries – measures overall business confidence using a blended figure of short-term and long-term projections.

While dentists’ confidence has dipped slightly this year, the decline is only by a single point to -3. This means that dentistry remains the most optimistic primary healthcare profession and continues to outperform the primary care sector as a whole, which gave a reading of -16.

Respondents were asked to rate their confidence in both short and long-term business prospects, with short-term confidence unchanged from the previous year at +40. However, long-term confidence dipped slightly, from -44 to -46, meaning that dentists’ overall confidence score fell by one point compared with last year’s score of -2.

Looking to the rest of the sector, pharmacists’ overall confidence registered at -17, while GPs were the least optimistic of all primary care professionals with a confidence reading of -28.

Planning for the future: a family practice

74 per cent of dentists would now encourage friends and family to follow their career path, compared with 69 per cent last year – indicative of a renewed commitment to their vocation. 

This could be linked to the 74 per cent of practices that expect business profits to increase over the next 12 months, the same proportion as last year.

In addition, 89 per cent of dentists surveyed reported planning for growth in the next five years (compared with 90 per cent in 2018), far outstripping the numbers who are planning to sell their practice or retire (11 per cent).

Improving sentiment throughout the profession is further reflected in increased practice goodwill values, with 92 per cent of dentists expecting them to stay the same or increase over the next 12 months, against just eight per cent who think they will fall.

Recruitment remains an issue

With 21 per cent of dentists readying for a substantial increase in financial pressures over the next five years, the research also reveals recruitment as a potential obstacle to growth.

32 per cent of those surveyed reported that recruitment is a time-consuming problem, while a similar proportion (35 per cent) said they get plenty of applicants but not always of the quality they seek.

Ian Crompton, head of healthcare banking services at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “This year’s index shows that dentists continue to be significantly more confident than the rest of the healthcare sector, but even they are not immune to the ongoing challenges faced by the sector more broadly.

“It’s positive that growth remains firmly on the agenda, and to see how many dentists are intent on increasing the value of their practices themselves. As these businesses continue to grow, and as these findings show, attracting the right talent will be high up the agenda and essential to remaining competitive.

“By understanding the challenges and opportunities dentists face, we can provide the knowledge, insights and products that their practices need. We’ll be by the side of these businesses as they continue to evolve, doing our part to ensure the continued provision of essential services in the years to come.”

A more positive outlook overall

The overall Healthcare Confidence Index increased from -21 in 2018 to -16 this year – the highest level since the survey began in 2011. Throughout the lifetime of the index, short-term confidence has always been more positive than long-term, and is now +21 against -53 – a difference of 74 points.

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