No shortage of dentists says Government committee

No shortage of dentists says Government committee

The Migration Advisory Committee has published its review of the Shortage Occupation List, adding veterinarians, web designers and architects, but significantly not dental practitioners. This was despite evidence from the BDA that many practices were having trouble recruiting and from the GDC that a third of European graduates might be leaving in the next five years. The Home Affairs Committee has also called on Government to protect EU citizens rights to work in UK

Dentists and other dental care professionals are not on the Shortage Occupation List of the Migration Advisory Committee. Whilst the UK remains in the EU, the list only applies to people from outside the EEA. Being on the list conveys certain advantages –not having to conduct a Resident Labour Market Test, exemption from the £35,000 minimum income threshold for settlement, lower visa fees and priority in the event the cap ‘binds’.

The committee notes that there is considerable uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the future immigration system and say that together these factors ‘lead to a high level of employer concern’. They advise that non-EEA migrants can still be recruited into graduate-level jobs through Tier 2 even if the job is not on the list. Their recommendations imply an expansion of the list from about 1% of total employment to around 9%.

The BDA told the committee that many providers of dentistry are having trouble in recruiting. Participation rates appear to be dropping in all four countries of the UK and that with an ageing population the need for complex treatments is increasing.

A survey of general dental practices found that 63% of dental practices have had trouble recruiting in recent years naming working conditions in the NHS as a reason for this. The Association also told the committee that around 16% of dentists qualified in EEA countries and research undertaken by the General Dental Council suggests that almost a third of EEA registrants are considering leaving the UK in the next five years.

In addition, significant numbers of currently registered dentists are likely to retire over the next few years. The GDC states that there has been difficultly in predicting long-term dental demand and graduate numbers have not kept up with this. There have been plans to alleviate this issue by growing dental care professionals who include dental hygienists and dental therapists, but there is a limit to what could and should be expected from these said the BDA.

The Committee concluded that they should not recommend including dental practitioners on the

Shortage Occupation List, despite the evidence received from the BDA and GDC as the relative vacancy rate is ‘below average’ and the ranking of the shortage indicators is ‘middle of the range’.

Home Affairs Committee

Meanwhile the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has called on the Government to protect in law the rights of EU citizens in the UK. It says that the Government should guarantee in law that any EU citizens living in the UK before Brexit (and who would be eligible for status under the Settlement Scheme) are legal residents of the UK and are able to continue to live and work as they have done until now.

The Settlement Scheme should operate in addition to provide them with proof of their entitlement to remain. “This would mean that EU citizens in the UK are protected post-Brexit from the difficulties and uncertainties which blighted the Windrush generation. EU citizens are our friends, colleagues and valued members of UK society: it is only right that the Government should give them certainty and security.”

Reference Migration Advisory Committee: Full review of the shortage occupation list, May 2019. Dental Practitioners: pp 80/81 paras 4B59-4B63


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