Latest Lloyds Healthcare Confidence Index

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Lloyds Bank Healthcare Confidence Index shows dentists are back!

The latest Lloyds Bank Healthcare Confidence Index shows:

• Confidence among dentists has rebounded more strongly than GPs or pharmacists, having taken the biggest dip during the pandemic

• Seven in ten (72%) expect to grow practice profits over the next year

• More than nine in ten (94%) believe goodwill values will hold firm or increase over the next year

Dentists have proved their resilience after their confidence rebounded strongly in the past year, despite being hit harder than other primary healthcare professions at the height of the pandemic, according to the latest Lloyds Bank Healthcare Confidence Index, launched today (9th November).

Last year dentists’ confidence fell from three to -24 on the back of fears of falling profits and growing financial pressures, but it has now jumped 22 points to -2 (on a scale from -100 to +100), higher than both GPs and pharmacists, who recorded an Index of -21 and -7 respectively.

Dentists’ confidence witnessed the sharpest growth of the three professions surveyed after government support for NHS practices proved robust during lockdown, with their incomes largely protected.

The Healthcare Confidence Index, a survey of GPs, dentists and pharmacists, has run annually since 2011 and seeks to give a detailed overview of the sector as it is today, as well as exploring the professions’ ambitions and expectations for the future.

Almost three-quarters (72%) of dentists now expect to grow profits over the next year and more than nine in ten (94%) believe goodwill values will hold firm or increase, supporting the burgeoning positive sentiment.

That said, there are potential storm clouds on the horizon, with three quarters (73%) of dentists expecting financial pressures to continue to increase in the next year and roughly the same proportion (75%) expect the standard of NHS dental services to patients to get worse over the next five years.

That likely reflects their uncertainties over healthcare reforms, including the imminent review of the NHS dental contract, which is expected shortly.
Half (51%) said NHS contract reforms will negatively impact on profits. At the same time, only around one in ten (13%) think reforms will mean better care for patients.

Succession and sustainability

The number of dentists expecting payment rates for associates to increase has grown more than sixfold from 3% to 19%, reflecting the challenging recruitment landscape. Looking at dentists’ succession plans, their preferred option is to sell to an associate (45%), which would help ensure a smooth transition of ownership.

However, dentists would still be well advised to hold a competitive sale process to make sure they get the full market value for their practice. Turning to sustainability, it’s encouraging to see dentists have an appetite to do their bit, with three quarters (74%) saying sustainability is important to their future plans.

Martyn Kendrick, UK head of healthcare banking services at Lloyds Bank, said: “This year, the Index finds that the overall confidence of dentists, GPs and pharmacists has now returned to levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic.

“As a profession, dentists’ confidence was hit hardest by the pandemic, but it has also rebounded the most strongly, and we can expect them to benefit from the release of pent-up demand for their services as they return to 100% capacity.

“There is a challenge ahead around recruitment, but dentists have proved themselves to be increasingly entrepreneurial in recent years. We remain by the side of businesses as they receive the vital support needed to make the most of the opportunities to grow.”

Andy Acton, director, Frank Taylor Associates, said: “Since reopening, dentists have been working hard to market themselves, which has supported this impressive bounce back. Many will have taken the opportunity to look again at their cost base as well as activities like marketing, resulting in a permanent uplift in profitability.”

Alan Suggett, dental business unit partner at UNW, added: “Only time will tell if the headwinds of growing recruitment and financial pressures will damper confidence in the coming years. That said, the dental profession has coped admirably with the challenges of the pandemic so far and made the most of the opportunities that have come its way to create the current positive outlook.”