The British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN) has announced its supports for the campaign by the British Society of Dental Hygiene & Therapy (BSDHT) to ensure dental nursing support for hygienists and therapists in clinical practice.

However, the BADN suggests it raises the question of the number of registered dental nurses necessary to provide such support – and why, despite several thousand student dental nurses qualifying and registering every year, a similar number fail to re-register each July and leave the profession.

According to their figures, there are currently 57,000 dental nurses on the GDC register and 3,500 failed to re-register this July.

BADN President Jacqui Elsden said: ‘The recent pandemic has served to highlight why there are currently insufficient dental nurses in the UK. Although NHS and mixed practices received their NHS funding as normal – and a condition of that funding was that they continued to pay their staff as normal – many refused to pay their dental nurses in full, leaving them with little or no income.

‘Despite requests from BADN to waive or lower the ARF, or to allow monthly payments to ease the financial burden on dental nurses in particular, the General Dental Council refused to recognise the dire financial plight of the largest registrant group and insisted on full payment of £114 by 31 July.

‘In addition, dental nurses employed in NHS practices are not considered to be NHS employees and consequently are not afforded the same conditions and benefits as NHS employees. They are denied access to the NHS pension scheme, are not paid according to NHS salary scales but instead are often paid just minimum wage. Nor are they issued with NHS ID – and, consequently, were not recognised as key workers during the lockdown period.

The BADN says that the BDA may have stated that dental nurses were keyworkers, but the NHS didn’t.

They add that the BADN has heard from dental nurses who were unable to get their children into childcare because the childminders/schools would only accept NHS ID.

Supermarkets that were opening early or having special times for keyworkers would also only let people in if they had NHS ID.

Jacqui Elsden added: ‘Despite this, when the NHS called for volunteers to assist on the frontline, dental nurses were, I understand, the largest registrant group to volunteer – a fact which has not been acknowledged or recognised by the NHS.

‘Those dental nurses who did volunteer to assist the NHS during the crisis were unable to get their children into childcare, denied entry into early morning NHS-reserved supermarket openings, and refused access to the many special services offered to actual NHS employees during the crisis – because the NHS refused to acknowledge them and their contribution!

‘Dental nurses are registered dental care professionals and must be recognised as such – by employers, by colleagues and by the NHS.’

The BADN is calling for all dental nurses in practice to be paid a salary that recognises not only their invaluable contribution to the dental team but also their training, knowledge and professionalism, as well as the financial outgoings required just to be allowed to work as a dental nurse – training costs, registration fees, indemnity cover and CPD costs – not just minimum wage.

Jacqui said: ‘BADN is also calling upon the GDC to lower the ARF for dental nurses – or, at the very least, allow monthly payments in order to ease the financial burden; on the Chief Dental Officers of the four home nations to recognise and acknowledge the contribution of dental nurses, particularly over the last six months, and to require that NHS practices in receipt of NHS funding during the lockdown period pay their dental nurses their full salaries for that period or have their funding withdrawn; and on the NHS to accord to dental nurses working in NHS practices the same rights and benefits as NHS employees.’

The BADN said anonymised versions of emails sent to them from dental nurses who were not being paid were forwarded to NHS England during lockdown.

The BADN wants:

  • Dental nurses working in NHS practices to be paid according to NHS scales, not minimum wage
  • Dental nurses working in NHS practices to be allowed access to the NHS pension scheme
  • Dental nurses working in NHS practices to be recognised as key workers and issued with NHS ID
  • Dental nurses working in NHS practices during lockdown to be paid their salaries as normal, employers to be told they cannot force dental nurses to forfeit their annual leave, nor to pay back any salary which was paid to them; and action to be taken against employers who didn’t pay/paid something but took away annual leave/ paid something but are now telling dental nurses they have to repay it, or work without pay to recompense employer
  • GDC to lower ARF for dental nurses and/or arrange for monthly direct debit payments to spread financial burden.