Michael Watson looks at the assessment process for training dentists – with a critical eye
Last year, 35 newly qualified dentists from UK universities failed to win a place on dental Foundation Training (formerly known as VT).
This year the situation is worse. Potentially, 76 new dentists will be unable to do the training. Best estimates suggest 60 of these are from England and Wales dental schools.
As such, they will be unable to work in the NHS. Had they qualified elsewhere in the EU, they could. If they were a hygienist or therapist, no problem. But as a dentist without Foundation Training, they cannot apply for a performer number and cannot so much as carry out an examination for an NHS patient.
At the end of May, the Committee of Postgraduate Dental Deans and Directors (COPDEND) announced that in this year’s round there were 1153 eligible candidates.
These included 109 from European Dental Schools and 17 from other dental schools worldwide.
And 1,138 applicants attended for assessments. The 968 highest ranked individuals were offered places.
Further training places have become available and, from the beginning of July, more offers were sent by email.
It appears that about 80 more places have been offered, but no official announcement has been made. Some may not qualify, others may not take up their place, but it still leaves a sizeable number without a job after five years of study and a massive student debt.
Many have criticised the assessment process. COPDEND cannot be confident that those excluded deserve to be excluded as the weakest candidates.
To what extent does the subjective view of an examiner affect the candidate’s ranking? The margin between success and failure at the margin is only a small fraction of a percentage point. On this basis, a candidate may be barred from working in the NHS.
The Department of Health appears to be immune from all criticism. At the BDA Conference earlier this year, Earl Howe said that they were bound by EU law and could not exclude overseas graduates from seeking and gaining places.
But many have urged the Government not to waste the taxpayers money they have invested in their undergraduate training, by effectively excluding them from Foundation Training and thus working in the NHS.
By news correspondent Michael Watson