Despite reports highlighting a drop in NHS dentists, what do GDC figures show when it comes to dental nurses?

NHS Dental Statistics for England – 2020-21 Annual Report revealed that during this time, 23,733 dentists performed NHS activity – a decrease of 951 on the previous year.

The data was revealed in response to a parliamentary question by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, whose Kingston and Surbiton constituency is covered by the clinical commissioning group for south-west London, which lost 91 dentists.

The British Dental Association (BDA) said dentists had left the NHS due to its failure to reward their commitment for more than a decade. Its chair, Eddie Crouch, said it will be made worse by rules brought in on January 1 to accelerate recovery from the pandemic, which mean NHS practices are obliged to meet 85 per cent of their pre-covid activity levels or face financial penalties.

However, GDC registration figures present a different picture for dental nurses. In December 2019 there were 58, 652 dental nurses on the register. In January 2020 this rose to 58, 907, and by December 2020, the end of the first year of the pandemic, figures stood at 58, 728. Figures then changed little in 2021, with the GDC recording 59, 152 registered dental nurses in January and 59, 324 in December.

The annual report for 2021 has not yet been released.

However, with mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers soon to take effect, these figures could look very different by the end of 2022.