Foreign Dentists Could Be Fast-Tracked Into Practice

Foreign Dentists Could Be Fast-Tracked Into Practice

The government is embarking on a three months ’public consultation’ the outcome of which could see foreign dentists given the green light to work in the UK without having to first sit onerous exams.

If the proposals come to fruition, the General Dental Council will be granted legal powers to provisionally register dentists with overseas qualifications.  Once registered, they will be able to work in any UK dental setting, but only under the supervision of a GDC registered dentist.

Under current legislation, any dentist from overseas seeking to work in the UK has to pass exams which can take years to complete.  The government is eager to speed up the process and increase the headcount of dentists working in the NHS, especially in areas where few practices remain or are accepting new patients.

The announcement was made on Friday 16th February by the Department of Health & Social Care and Minister responsible for Primary Care, Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP.

According to the Department of Health, around 30 percent of all dentists on the GDC register qualified outside of the UK, and in 2022, 46 per cent of new additions to the register trained overseas.

Mrs Leadsom said "Strengthening the workforce is key to our ambitions and our proposals would abolish red tape that currently prevents fully qualified overseas dentists from working in this country, while ensuring the highest standards of care and patient safety".

Mixed Reaction 

Early reaction to the announcement has been mixed.  For many years, the GDC has been the butt of criticism because of the length of time it takes to process applications from foreign trained dentists.  The Professional Standards Authority which regulates the GDC, and the BDA, have both been critical of the regulator’s perceived inefficiency and bureaucracy surrounding recruitment.

Eddie Crouch for the British Dental Association does not believe the proposal will work. " A broken contract is forcing dentists out of the NHS with every day it remains in force" he said, adding that "Overseas dentists are no more likely to stick with a failed system than their UK colleagues. Ministers need to stop trying to fill a leaky bucket, and actually fix it."

But Jason Wong, Interim Chief Dental Officer for England, sounded a more optimistic note saying "Improving access to dental appointments for patients is a priority for the NHS, and increasing the number of dentists available would make it easier for patients to get the dental care they need".

For the GDC, Stefan Czerniawski, Executive Director, Strategy, said "We very much welcome the government’s openness to new ideas for ways of streamlining international registration. Provisional registration is an exciting opportunity that will require commitment and collaboration from across dentistry on the design and delivery of the new approach.

"We need to move at pace, but we need to take the time to get this right - and we will work with stakeholders across the dental sector and four nations to do so" said Czerniawski.

Outlining its timetable, the Department’s statement said ’Following conclusion of the three-month consultation, responses will be analysed and fed into a final report. They will also be used to finalise the legislation that is planned to be laid before Parliament for MPs to debate’.

Some details of the present exam process are here on GDC site.

Have Your Say

The public consultation is published here and is open for readers to comment.


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