Factors influencing the career aspirations and preferred modes of working in recent dental graduates in Wales.
In England and Wales, National Health Service (NHS) primary dental care services are now commissioned on a local basis. In planning for the future, it is important that commissioning authorities have a clear understanding of the perspectives of recent dental graduates: vocational dental practitioners (VDPs). This study investigated the career aspirations and preferred modes of working of VDPs in Wales. Data were collected via a postal questionnaire, comprising 37 closed and open questions, mailed to all 59 VDPs in Wales. A total of 53 (90%) VDPs participated, of whom 47 saw their future in general dental practice: 5, 35, and 7 indicating a preference to work in the NHS, mixed (NHS and private), and private sector, respectively. None selected the Community Dental Service as their preferred vocation. More than half of all respondents intended to undertake a postgraduate qualification within the next five years and 22 wished to specialise. Of the 53 VDPs, 44 were concerned that lack of NHS contracts would limit where they could practise, and agreed that family and other social commitments were a significant influence on choice of practice location. Access to high-quality premises and continuing professional development were agreed as important by 41 VDPs. A majority (37) agreed that private dentistry was an attractive alternative to NHS dentistry. Of the respondents, 38 (22 females, 16 males) expected to work part-time at some point in the future and 14 said they would consider a career outside dentistry. Only nine VDPs agreed that they would be happy working in a single-handed practice and even fewer (six) indicated they would be happy working for a corporate body. Numerous factors impact on the career aspirations of VDPs. These factors have been quantified in this study, and healthcare-commissioning bodies need to be aware of them when planning future dental care provision in Wales.