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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 August, 2003, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Cash threat to dental services
Dentist
Dental students are abandoning NHS to make more money
Community dental services are struggling because newly-qualified dentists, crippled by debt, are avoiding NHS work.

The British Dental Association (BDA) said a survey has revealed that young dentists were opting for better-paid private work, rather than NHS jobs in clinics, in a bid to improve their finances faster.

Last month more than 600 people queued outside a practice in Carmarthen, west Wales, in the hope of claiming one of the 300 new NHS places.

BDA spokesman Dr John Renshaw said: "That picture evoked a Third World Country where you have to queue to access what ought to be part of NHS care."

Only the first 300 were accepted and the rest were turned away. Police were called in after the surgery staff received abusive calls from disgruntled would-be patients

Concern

The new survey findings will further fuel concerns about the growing shortage of patient places with NHS dentists and dental services in rural Wales.

The BDA survey found that average debt among dental students rose by 23% in the last year alone with final year students being an average of 12,700 in debt.

The percentage of graduates with debts over 30,000 has also more than tripled since 2001.

Jim Lafferty, chairman of the BDA's young dentist committee, said: "Graduating from university should be the beginning of the rest of your life, but dental graduates are starting with a 13,000 millstone around their necks.

"Debt is becoming a bigger feature of students' lives, with 49% of them taking on part-time jobs to bolster their finances in spite of their gruelling academic schedule."

The level of debt was higher among men than women - 13,900 compared to 11,600.

Queue at dentist
Over 600 people queued in an attempt to get on a Carmarthen NHS dentist's list
A third of those taking part in the survey said their level of debt would influence their career choice, with the influence stronger the higher the level of debt.

Of those with debts under 12,700, only 15% said their debt influenced their career choice, while 49% of those with debts higher that this said their choices would be affected.

Concern about debt also influenced undergraduate life, with one in five living at home while studying and two-thirds of these saying finances were the reason for this.

"The BDA is currently looking at ways of encouraging people from a broader spectrum of backgrounds to consider dentistry as a career.

"Our fear is that concerns over debt may render that work useless," Mr Lafferty said.

The BDA's survey was based on a survey of 339 students at 13 UK dental schools.




SEE ALSO:
Dental crisis: Your views
31 Jul 03  |  Wales
Dentist shortage - hundreds queue
28 Jul 03  |  South West Wales


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