The dental foundation training dilemma

Michael Watson questions the current foundation training for dental graduates

To work in the NHS as a dentist you need to have been on a performer’s list.

To be admitted to this list, you need to be a dentist qualified in the European Economic Area (EEA) or to have completed dental foundation training (DFT) if you trained in the UK.

Having spent a great deal of money on training a dental student for five years through to qualification, let alone what it has cost the student, one might assume that a reasonable government would wish to provide sufficient places in training for all of them to work in the NHS.

Unfortunately we do not have a ‘reasonable government’, capable of logical thought.

Not acceptable

Because 76 students due to graduate from UK dental schools are still on a waiting list for foundation training.

In total 1,269 applications from UK and overseas were received for training places, of which 968 were confirmed in placements.

UK students numbered 1,073.

Judith Husband, chair of the BDA’s education, ethics and the dental team working group, said: ‘Seventy-six graduates now face the terrible uncertainty on whether they will be able to begin a career in NHS dentistry.

‘To be clear that’s 76 too many.

‘Each of them will be trying to focus on finals and this added pressure is a damaging and wholly unnecessary distraction.’

The history

Foundation training and before that vocational training has a long and distinguished history.

The earliest pioneers are probably now within 10 years of retirement and many speak of the valuable lessons they learned, which helped them establish themselves in their career.

It was negotiated by the BDA’s general dental services committee (predecessor of the GDPC) and, like seniority payments, was paid for by reducing the amount paid to dentists.

To that extent it was owned by the profession; however, like seniority payments, it was taken away by the Department of Health, without any recompense nor any control by the profession over how the money was spent.

Fit for purpose?

I do doubt whether foundation training is fit for purpose any more.

Yes, if a dentist has never worked in the NHS, there should be some sort of introductory course, but whether it should continue in the existing format, I doubt.

And this should apply to any dentist, wherever they qualified, to get them used to working in the NHS.

The number of young dentists, many from overseas, who find themselves subject to a complaint before the GDC, is witness to the need for this.

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