Should Dental Graduates Be 'Shackled' To The NHS? - Consultation Launched

Should Dental Graduates Be ’Shackled’ To The NHS? - Consultation Launched

Shortly after the announcement of a General Election, the Department of Health & Social Care launched a ’Consultation’ to examine ’whether newly qualified dentists should commit to delivering a minimum amount of NHS work after graduating or repay some training fees’.

The proposal is part of a government and NHS plan to recover dentistry and boost the dental workforce through 40% training expansion.

Training an individual dentist can ’cost up to around £300,000, of which costs in the region of £200,000 are not repayable by the student’ the consultation notes.

However, ’a growing proportion of dentists are opting to go straight into private practice or are choosing to deliver little to no NHS work shortly after completing postgraduate dental foundation training’.

Of more than 35,000 dentists registered with the General Dental Council in England, just over 24,000 delivered some NHS care in England in 2022/23. There is no data to quantify how many days / hours dentists work for the NHS - only activity is measured in terms of UDAs.

The figures suggest that nearly one-third of registered dentists are not contributing to NHS dentistry and may be working solely in private practice.

Under its consultation, which will run for eight weeks, the government is asking whether newly qualified dentists should commit to delivering a minimum amount of NHS dental care for a minimum number of years after graduating, and whether they should repay some of the public funding invested in their training if they do not.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins MP said “Taxpayers make a significant investment in training dentists, so it is only right to expect dental graduates to work in the NHS once they’ve completed their training.”

The consultation launch document states ’The government believes working in the NHS will give dental graduates the best start to their careers, by giving them the broadest range of experience, great support from strong teams of dental professionals and the most comprehensive training.

Experience in NHS dentistry helps to produce well-rounded clinicians who can work alongside different professions and deliver high quality and safe patient care, and can be supplemented by additional work in private dentistry. The government believes this balance is better for our skilled dental workforce and better for the patients they treat.’

Commenting on the Consultation’s proposals, Eddie Crouch, Chair of the BDA observed that “Almost all UK graduates start their careers working in the NHS, meaning any gains in access would be negligible.

And in a scathing attack on the proposal’s central theme Mr Crouch said “Government plans to shackle graduates to a service facing collapse. It should be asking why experienced colleagues are walking away.”

There is currently no requirement for dentists to work in the NHS following the completion of their training. 

In contrast, a graduate medic in the UK must undertake a minimum of one year of foundation training to register as a doctor, followed by an additional year of foundation training and at least three years of general practice specialty training to become a GP.

Should Dental Graduates Be ’Shackled’ To The NHS? - Consultation Launched

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