New transactions bolster the market, but will we see demand for Dentistry bounce back to pre-pandemic levels?
London, November 2022
LaingBuisson has today published the 6th edition of its Dentistry UK Market Report.
The report shows a ‘High Street’ dentistry market, valued by LaingBuisson at £8.3 billion in 2020/21, which shrunk nearly 10% in real terms (after taking account of CPI) since the previous year. Of this, private sector dentistry accounted for £4.6 billion, while NHS spend amounted to £3.7 billion.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been significant for dentistry. During 2020, much routine treatment was paused or delayed and with restrictions on aerosol generating procedures in place, only very urgent and emergency treatment was undertaken
Despite the impact of Covid-19, this decreased perhaps less than might have been expected to a level of 56% in 2020. By October 2021, 47% of patients had been back to a dental practice since lockdown restrictions were eased. However, half had not done so yet, meaning that they had not seen a dental professional at all for 18 months or more.
LaingBuisson predicts that the market will continue to grow by an average of 2-3% in nominal terms in the next three years. This will mainly come from more spending on private dentistry, though much depends on the strength of the UK economy, and spending on NHS dentistry is expected to fall in real terms. Modest economic growth is currently forecast, which may hold back stronger consumer spending, and the impact of Brexit is uncertain and carries an economic and supply-side risk.
Challenges for the dentistry market are still focused around recruitment and retention. Providers continue to report challenges in the recruitment of dentists and dental care professionals. Some providers have reported labour shortages, resulting in the undershooting of NHS contracted activity, and an increased reliance on locum dentists. The shortage is affecting all roles, not just dentists. This comes at a time when a new NHS dentistry contract model, which aims to improve prevention and focus on patient outcomes, continues to be tested after many years of planning.
Consolidation has strengthened this very fragmented market with a number of new equity investments, and transactions, that have been made in the past year including the recently announced merger of Portman Healthcare Group and Dentex.
Report authors Liz Heath and Keith Pollard, said:
“The structure of dentistry supply in the UK is a crucial determinant of demand behaviour. The majority of patients currently access dental services for NHS dentistry, and the minority access private dentistry as self-payers or through dental cover plans. Over time, shifts in dentistry supply has seen more dentists provide private dentistry, chiefly as more dentists have sought remuneration and working conditions of private dentistry over NHS dentistry.
It is also the case that many more patients on the NHS are opting for private treatments as an upgrade to their NHS course of treatment. Going forward this shift to private dentistry supply is expected to continue as more dentists prefer working practices offered through private dentistry, and patients seek wider treatment options to suit their needs.”