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Market insight – Scottish Dental magazine : Scottish Dental magazine


Market insight


Dental Market Review provides an in-depth review of the sector

18 August, 2022
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Dental Market Review provides an in-depth review of the sector

Dentists in Scotland providing NHS services have a more positive outlook than their colleagues south of the border, according to a new survey by the specialist surveying company Christie and Co.

While there was “extreme frustration” about the state of dentistry in the National Health Service in England, things in Scotland, where a capitation-based formula is used, were much more positive, the report says.

The review, which covers 2021 and the first half of 2022, says that market activity after the worst of the Covid pandemic drove average UK sale prices for dental practices higher by 8.6 per cent.

“It was positive to see that funding support was extended to NHS practices in Scotland post 1 April 2022, when the Covid Financial Support (FSP) system was removed,” it says.

“We believe these models will continue to evolve and there will not be a cliff edge removal of support.”

The report does point out, however, that further improvements continue to be called for, particularly around the current Statement of Dental Remuneration (SDR).

“There are of course many weaknesses around the SDR as revised, but ongoing support is welcome while a new model is designed.”

By contrast, the study says that urgent reform is needed in England, but that it “seems as far away as ever”. 

It continues: “A theory expressed by a number of providers is that NHSE, aware of the forced migration of patients from the NHS to [the] private sector, might simply allow this to continue in the hope that this leaves a smaller pool of patients within the NHS sector.

“It is clear that the current UDA model doesn’t work, although there is no easy replacement. The strength of the private sector means that appointment books in many mixed practices are full.

“This means that associates can more easily move from NHS to private without needing to build a list of their own and risk a reduction of earnings in the short-term.”

Another problem reported is that the shortage of dentists within the NHS has been compounded by Brexit, with a backfill of practitioners from Eastern Europe in particular no longer existing.

“As trade deals are struck with countries across the world, it may be that the movement of labour becomes easier and this could lead to an increase in dentists moving to the UK.” Across the country, there has been little overall change post-pandemic in the number of overall practices that are trading. The sector remains highly fragmented in terms of its ownership, with just 15 per cent of practices owned by the larger groups.

“Supply is still an issue across the sector. We estimate that there are currently some 521 individual dental transactions in the market annually,” the report says.

“Demand is strong from independent, corporate and group purchasers, particularly for larger private or predominately private practices. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of groups, which previously favoured NHS-led practices, focusing on the private sector only.”

In their introduction to the review, Christies’ Managing Director Medical, Simon Hughes, and Head of Dental, Paul Graham, report that dentistry continues to be a highly attractive sector for investors.

They add that it is “helped no doubt” by the “increased awareness of oral health and the boom in cosmetic and aesthetic treatments in recent times.”

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