Dentists are in the firing line in the latest round of Army redundancies – but defence chiefs have insisted a 92-year-old specialist corps will survive.
A total of 37 staff in the Royal Army Dental Corps (RADC) will be among 5,300 personnel to be made redundant, as the number of regulars is slashed from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2017.
The news triggered speculation on a chat-site popular with soldiers that the RADC could be wound up and its work performed by civilian dentists.
The corps – established way back in 1921 – is responsible for dental health in centres across the world, including within field hospitals during military operations.
But the MoD told Dentistry that such rumours were unfounded, saying: 'The Royal Dental Medical Corps is not being disbanded.
'The last round of redundancy fields does include some medical staff, but it amounts to fewer than ten dentists and 30 dental support staff, such as clerks and hygienists.'
Explaining the decision, the spokesman added: 'Fewer soldiers means less requirements elsewhere – and that includes dentists.'
The redundancies would still leave the RADC with more than 100 dentists and more than 300 support staff, the MoD said.
A breakdown of the redundancies was provided in a written parliamentary answer to a question tabled by Labour’s defence team.
It said the rankings of the staff set to go, in June, would be officer (7), staff sergeant (2), sergeant (6), corporal (12), lance corporal (6) and private (4).
The latest round of redundancies – known as tranche three – are the largest faced by the Army so far, as the MoD seeks to plug a £38 billion hole in the defence budget.
However, answering questions in the Commons, defence minister Mark Francois hinted that the tranche three cuts might not be the end of the departures.
He told MPs: 'There may be some small reductions to the number of Army medics in this tranche and some small reductions in naval and RAF medics and dentists in tranche four. The details are still being worked through.'
The RADC was born out of Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), set up in 1901 – gaining its 'Royal' prefix in 1946, in recognition of its service in World War II.