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National Patient Safety Agency

NCAS highlights issues that influence performance of dental practitioners

10 March 2011


The National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) has today published a literature review aimed at improving awareness of the reasons dentists may experience performance difficulties. 


The Literature Review of factors influencing dental practitioner performance was produced to highlight gaps in the understanding of issues that influence performance of dental practitioners.


It considers previously published work by academics around the world and concludes that high caseload, health concerns, practice environment, personal crises and feelings of isolation are among the contributing factors which may lead to poor performance.


NCAS’ Associate Director of Dentistry, Dr Janine Brooks, said: “Stress and burnout have long been linked to poor performance among practitioners, and are frequently manifested as mental fatigue and low self-esteem.


“Dentists often experience sustained high levels of demand on their clinical expertise and, in addition, require strong inter-personal skills with the patients they treat. 


“If they operate alone or within small teams, they may have no-one else to turn to.  It is therefore of little surprise that these practitioners sometimes suffer from personal health problems such as burnout”.


Other contributors to poor performance amongst dental professionals may include obesity, musculo-skeletal problems and addiction problems, as well as a lack of leadership or team working skills. 


Dr Brooks added: “Dentistry has long been regarded as a highly stressful profession.  However, to date there has been a lack of studies which have investigated factors associated with stress and its effect on performance. 


“This review highlights where those gaps exist and refers to previous studies around this issue.  I hope that the review will be of use to those considering undertaking research in this important area.


“We all want the best for our patients.  However, dentists, like the rest of us, are only human and suffer from the same types of problems as the rest of the general population.


“To really understand the issues that affect the performance of dental practitioners, it will be vital for more research to be conducted.  The review that we have published today serves as a platform on which further research could be based”.


NCAS receives between 80 and 100 referrals of dental practitioners each year by health care organisations which need advice and support to address performance concerns. 


For a copy of the Literature Review, please visit www.ncas.npsa.nhs.uk/publications/evaluation-and-research




Notes to editors


1.   NCAS provides general and specialist advice to help organisations address concerns about the practice of individual dentists, doctors or pharmacists or, in some cases, of practice teams. NCAS also undertakes formal assessment of practitioners.

2.   NCAS is currently a division of the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA). In July 2010, the Department of Health published its review of Arm’s Length Bodies – Liberating the NHS: Report of the arm’s-length bodies review. Although the report announced the abolition of the NPSA, it did stipulate that NCAS functions are to continue.  These services will continue to remain free of charge to NHS organisations until the NCAS becomes self-funding;  this is expected within two to three years.

3.  For other information about this press release, please contact Simon Morgan, Senior Communications Manager, on 0207 062 1631/07500 224240 or e-mail smorgan@ncas.nhs.uk