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a blog by Chris Barrow

The £15 an hour minimum wage - for dental nurses

Whilst the Labour Party wrestle with themselves as to whether the minimum wage should increase from £8.91 to £10.00 or £15.00 an hour, we in dentistry wrestle with the immediate problem of how to reverse the gradual decline in the dental nursing population.

We have seen the numbers on this - that the "normal" annual reduction in GDC nursing registrations is not being matched (as has previously been the case) by emerging apprenticeships and qualifications.

Dental Nursing no longer appears to be an attractive career option.

Can I also remind you that, in two days from now, following the end of furlough 60,000 health and social care workers will be released into the workplace, to take up the 160,000 vacancies in that sector.

Remind me - what does the basic law of supply and demand say about wages in that scenario?

So what do we do about it?

Option 1 - wait for the Government to ease the entry requirements for a raft of designated occupations, including not just HGV drivers but health and social care workers - in the hope that we can recruit nurses from overseas?

Option 2 - wait for the current economic cycle to play itself out until there are more workers than jobs - in the hope that the current working conditions and pay for nurses becomes attractive again?

Option 3 - accept that Dental Nurses have been underpaid and underappreciated for decades, that the problem has now come home to roost and that a major reevaluation of pay and conditions is required (oh - and by the way - recognise that those increased costs will have to be passed on to the end user - the patient).

I've recently been in conversation with my clients on this subject and I decided to ask some of them to confidentially share their existing pay scales (see below).

If you can make any sense of it - I'd love to hear from you. There seems to be no science - only emotion.

So, given that Options 1 & 2 above are not going to make any impact in the short term (and may even be speculative) - we have Option 3.

I predict the £15 an hour basic nurse's wage by the start of next year. You cannot resist market forces.

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