Ministers have vowed to toughen up the rules to tackle long-standing fears that newly qualified dentists from across Europe lack practical training.
A looming update to the minimum training standards demanded by a European Union (EU) directive will be used to make changes, dentistry minister Lord Howe told peers.
However, the minister also reminded local health chiefs that it was their responsibility to ensure any applicant dentists were ‘appropriately trained and qualified for the role’.
The comments came after Conservative peer Lord Colwyn, a practising dentist for 40 years, raised concerns about training standards during a House of Lords debate.
Lord Colwyn noted that anyone with a dentistry degree obtained within the EU enjoyed automatic registration in the UK ‘based on the rules of free movement of EU citizens’.
All they needed to do to register with the General Dental Council (GDC) – without further exams – was provide proof of identity, degree and ‘good standing’ in their home country.
But he added: ‘The main concerns for dentistry have been the lack of language testing at registration points and the lack, in some countries, of practical training involving seeing patients.
‘In the current review, there is a welcome option for more formal language testing. I suggest that there is also a need to update the minimum training standards in accordance with the latest science.’
Lord Colwyn said ‘another concern’ was that dentists from across Europe were not required to undertake further vocational training – something required of both UK-qualified dentists as well as those from elsewhere in the world.
He added: ‘All dentists should be required to undertake such training. However, to ensure fairness of the system, all places would have to be funded.
‘EU dentists are eligible to apply for foundation training but, if allocated a place, take it away from a UK graduate. There is high competition for these training places across the UK.’
In reply, Lord Howe said: ‘We consider that there is an opportunity here, in the context of the proposal to update the minimum training standards in the directive, to address the long-standing concerns that some newly qualified EEA dentists do not have the same level of practical training at the point of qualification.
‘It will, however, remain essential that PCTs and other contracting or employing bodies ensure that any person they appoint to their performers list is appropriately trained and qualified for the role to which they will be appointed.’
The EEA is the ‘European Economic Area’, which consists of all 27 EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.
The directive due to be updated is 2005/36/EC, adopted in 2005, which aims to ‘encourage more automatic recognition of qualifications and simplify administrative procedures’.
BSSPD on the road in new initiative
The British Society for the Study of Prosthetic Dentistry (BSSPD) is running a countrywide roadshow to provide CPD for dental practitioners and to showcase the work of the Society.
‘Prosthodontics – Unleashed’ is a series of events held in dental schools that are free of charge to registered dental practitioners and DCPs, and provide two hours of verifiable CPD.
The upcoming events are: Dundee Dental Hospital (Thursday 17 November 2011, 18:00-20:30); Newcastle Dental Hospital (Friday 18 November 2011, 14:00-16:30); Cardiff Dental Hospital (Thursday 19 January 2012, 17:30-20:00); King’s College London (Friday 20 January 2012, 14:00-16.30).
For more details and to book, visit www.BSSPD.org/roadshows.
The BSSPD is one of the oldest of the specialist dental societies in the UK, having been founded in 1953.