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News / October 6, 2010

Doubt cast over accuracy of income data

by Guy Hiscott

New figures published by the NHS Information Centre today [6 October] on Northern Ireland dentists’ earnings and expenses must be interpreted with caution, as they are ‘experimental data’ based on small sample sizes and featuring double counting, the British Dental Association (BDA) has warned. 

The Information Centre’s Dental Earnings and Expenses, Northern Ireland, 2008/09, Experimental Statistics report itself emphasises that income can be counted twice – as it comes into the practice and again as the practice pays the dentists, leading to errors and inflation of the figures.

BDA Northern Ireland director Claudette Christie said: ‘Given the limitations and flaws in the data that underpins this report, which the Information Centre itself recognises, we do not believe they provide any meaningful indication of dentists’ earnings in Northern Ireland. The double counting of payments is a particular problem, since this leads to estimated earnings being overstated.

‘Dentists work hard to bring health service dental care to approximately one million people across Northern Ireland. They provide and pay for the equipment, staff and premises necessary to do that. Those costs are rising rapidly – at a faster rate than incomes, as the expense figures in today’s report confirm. Funding to high street dentistry must be secured to ensure that dental practices are able to meet the oral health needs of their patients.’

The key findings for self-employed General Dental Services (GDS) dentists in Northern Ireland in 2008/09 are:

Average taxable income (average gross earnings less average expenses):
• For all self-employed GDS dentists (i.e. principals and associates) was £90,600, compared to £89,800 in 2007/08
• For principal dentists was £129,600, an increase of 6.9% from £121,200 in 2007/08
• For associate dentists was £66,700, compared to £66,100 in 2007/08.

Average gross earnings (self-employment income before deduction of expenses): 
• For principal dentists were £333,700, an increase of 7.2∞ from £311,200 in 2007/08
• For associate dentists were £105,300, compared to £103,600 in 2007/08.

Average expenses (business expenses allowable for tax purposes):
• For principal dentists were £204,100, an increase of 7.4% from £190,100 in 2007/08
• For associate dentists were £38,600, an increase of 3.1% from £37,500 in 2007/08.

 The full report can be downloaded at