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By The Next Step

NHS or private: Which should you choose?

3 min
Young smiling female nurse

Wondering whether you should choose to work in the NHS or privately? There are many pros and cons to weigh up, including employee benefits - from pension schemes to pay and holiday entitlement.

What can you expect working for the NHS?

In the NHS, there is career and pay progression based on your application of knowledge and skills. Training and personal development opportunities are also available, as well as equality of opportunity and fair rates of pay for staff. This includes pay enhancements for out of hours, shift and overtime working, alongside flexible working and study leave for sponsored courses.

The NHS pension scheme is also one of the most generous and comprehensive in the UK, with every employee automatically becoming a member and having the option to opt out if they prefer to. When working for the NHS, your income tax, National Insurance and any student loans will be deducted automatically.

What can you expect working private?

Private work typically pays higher, but can differ depending on your area of speciality. If you are seeking flexible working hours and annual leave, then you will likely find more opportunities working privately.

If you are a dental associate working privately, then it’s up to you to sort out your own income tax, National Insurance and any student loans.

It’s useful to remember that you can balance both NHS and private work in some practices, and you don’t have to choose one or the other. Most dentists working in dental practices in the NHS are self-employed contractors in general practice, mixing NHS with private work.

The profit of dental practices varies according to the services they provide for their patients, the way they choose to provide these services and the level of demand. The proportion of NHS work each month compared to private work might fluctuate, and a fully private dentist may have busier and quieter times of the year.

Training sessions

When applying for a speciality, it’s useful to remember that Royal Colleges run training sessions to provide an overview of the interview process, as well as individual feedback. These courses are mainly for year two trainees about to go through the speciality recruitment process. Training can also be taken in foundation year one, which will give you enough time to improve your skillset before any official interviews.


With the rise in medical job application portals such as Oriel and NHS Jobs, it may seem like your CV may not be important when applying for jobs. However, your CV is a valuable part of your portfolio and modern medical CVs are reflective of the changing face of the profession.

A career outside dentistry or medicine?

Whatever the reason may be, you may be considering a career outside of dentistry and medicine. When looking into different career options, it’s useful to consider careers that tie in with your long-term interests, motivators, drivers and values.