International dentists could practise without passing overseas registration exam

GDC welcomes 'single biggest change to dental regulation in almost 20 years'

Plans to allow dentists from abroad to work in the UK without taking the overseas registration exam (ORE) are being considered by the government.

The proposed plan – which is subject to a three-month consultation – comes amidst the growing shortage of NHS dental provision.

In a release on 16 February, the government proposed to enable overseas-qualified dentists who have not yet achieved full GDC registration to be able to work in the UK more quickly through the introduction of a system of provisional registration.

Provisional registration would allow an overseas-qualified dentist to practise in any dental setting, including high street dental practices, under the supervision of a dentist who has full registration on GDC’s dentists register.

An opportunity

The consultation details read: ‘While it is completely appropriate that all dentists should have to demonstrate that they meet the high standards required to safely practise dentistry unsupervised in the UK, the government believes it should be possible for overseas-qualified dentists to be able to register to practise in some form before they have managed to achieve full registration with GDC.

‘This would provide an opportunity to bring dentists into the workforce more quickly so that they can contribute towards providing improved access to dental care for patients, as detailed in the dental plan.’

The GDC welcomed these proposals, saying they were ‘the essential first step’ towards providing provisional registration. However, the regulator also noted that implementation of the proposals would be ‘a substantial task’.

It said: ‘There is much to be done to design the processes which will allow provisional registration to work safely and effectively, to consult on and set the detailed rules which will underpin that – and then to ensure that the supervisory capacity and practice environments are in place to support internationally-qualified dentists to achieve full registration.’

‘We will ensure that our standards continue to be met’

Stefan Czerniawski, executive director for strategy at the GDC, stressed the regulator’s desire to prioritise patients and standards of care. He said: ‘We need to move at pace but not lose sight of the fundamental requirement to protect patients and ensure they receive high quality dental care.

‘As we work towards the introduction of provisional registration, we will ensure that our standards continue to be met and that provisional registrants receive the support they need to practise safely and prepare for the transition to full registration.’

The GDC also said the exact impact of these changes was unclear at this stage. For example, the exact number of dentists who would be able to work provisionally would depend on the number of schemes and places within those schemes offered.

‘A failed system’

The British Dental Association (BDA) responded less positively to the consultation, describing the proposal as the latest attempt to fill a ‘leaky bucket’. It said: ‘Overseas dentists are no more likely to stick with a failed system than their UK colleagues.’

The association urged the government to take further action to address the UK dental system as a whole. It said: ‘Ministers need to stop trying to fill a leaky bucket, and actually fix it.’

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