Government plans to boost dental workforce by cutting red tape

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Patients will benefit from plans to boost the dentistry workforce by cutting red tape and making it quicker and easier for dentists from overseas to work in the UK.

Under current rules, highly-skilled dentists who qualified overseas and are attempting to register to practise in the UK are required to pass exams that can take years to complete – meaning lengthy delays in them being able to provide dental care.

The government’s proposals – which are the subject of a public consultation being launched today (Friday) – mean the General Dental Council (GDC), which regulates dentists working in the UK, would be given new legal powers to provisionally register dentists with overseas qualifications. This would speed up the process and encourage more dentists trained abroad to come to the UK as part of a long-term plan to improve access to dentistry services.

Around 30 per cent of all dentists on the GDC register qualified outside of the UK, and in 2022, 46 per cent of new additions to the register were trained overseas. The government’s proposals would mean that overseas-qualified dentists would be able to start practising in the UK as quickly as possible.

Primary Care Minister Andrea Leadsom said:

Our dental recovery plan will create millions more dental appointments, improve access for patients and ease pressure on the sector. Our hard-working dentists deserve our gratitude and this is the start of our plan to put the sector on a sustainable footing.

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.

We have a long term plan to make access to NHS dental care faster, simpler and fairer for all, and I want to make sure we hear views from across the sector as we drive this forward.

The GDC would be given autonomy in setting the terms for provisional registrations to ensure the highest levels of patient safety and quality of care are maintained. Those on the provisional register will be able to work in the UK, but only under the supervision of a fully GDC-registered dentist.

The consultation forms part of the government and NHS’s wider dental recovery plan, which aims to significantly improve access to dental care across the country. It goes alongside work as part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan to increase training places in the UK for dental professionals by 2032, with the number of dentist places increasing by 40% to 1,100.

Other measures in the plan include dentists being offered additional payments for taking on new NHS patients and ‘golden hellos’ worth £20,000 over three years for those willing to go and work in underserved areas. These and other measures are expected to create an additional 2.5million dental appointments.

Jason Wong, Interim Chief Dental Officer for England, said:

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.

The NHS dental recovery plan represents an important milestone for dental services across the country – opening up more appointments for patients – and these proposals could be another vital step towards transforming NHS dental services to ensure faster access for patients.

Stefan Czerniawski, Executive Director, Strategy, General Dental Council, 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.

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.

The public consultation is published here.

From: Department of Health and Social CareNHS England, and The Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP

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