‘Significant risk to patients’: dental profession reacts to provisional registration plans

GDC introduces new flexible legislation for overseas registration

The profession has warned that plans for the provisional registration of overseas dentists poses ‘significant risk’ to patients – as well as an increased workload for UK-based dentists who opt in.

This comes as the General Dental Council (GDC) last week published its response to the government’s provisional registration proposal, calling it a ‘valuable opportunity’ for overseas clinicians.

However, the GDC stressed the importance of the proposed legislation providing the right framework. It called for further work for them to develop the rules and system in collaboration with other stakeholders.

What is provisional registration?

Provisional registration would enable overseas-qualified dentists who have not yet achieved full GDC registration to be able to work in the UK more quickly.

It 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.

The three-month consultation into the proposal launched in February and has now closed.

More can be read here.

The GDC also warned of ‘significant costs’.

‘Provisional registration will lead to significant costs to the GDC’, the response read.

‘There are upfront costs associated with developing and setting up the regulatory regime; and, on implementation, there will be costs associated with the continuing regulation of provisional registrants and their supervisors.

‘These costs will ultimately be met by registrants and by the providers of dental services, since all of the GDC’s costs fall to be recovered from fees.’

We hear from the dental profession about what it thinks of the proposals:

John Makin, head of the Dental Defence Union (DDU)

These proposals raise a number of challenges around supervision and accountability. We are concerned about the impact on qualified dentists being asked to supervise a potentially large number of provisionally qualified colleagues. The GDC will need to consult on the rules, as supervisors would undoubtedly be held accountable via fitness to practise proceedings for any failures in their supervision and mentorship.

At a time where, sadly, a GDC culture of fear still exists within the dental professions – we cannot emphasise enough how important it will be to get these rules right, and ensure they are balanced, proportionate and fair. 

In addition, we anticipate that it will be extremely challenging to find the required number of dentists to provide appropriate supervision. This is based on our experience of the current difficulties in finding supervision for a small number of dentists who have conditions imposed via the GDC’s fitness to practise process. If these plans were to go ahead, there are likely to be a significant number of provisional registrants needing supervision for a broad range of needs.

It’s important that the GDC makes the process of registration for colleagues who qualified overseas as smooth as possible while discharging its key duty, that of ensuring patient safety. To that aim, it’s paramount that those practising dentistry in the UK have the appropriate skills and qualifications.

Charlotte Eckhardt, dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons

This proposal puts UK patients at significant risk. It would give the General Dental Council powers to provisionally register dentists who have qualified overseas without passing examinations to prove their competency.

We recognise that the UK is currently facing a substantial shortage of dentists and patients are struggling to get appointments but the government’s quick fix solution to this problem is short-sighted and dangerous.

Many overseas qualified dentists may be accustomed to different standards from the UK.

We want to hear from you! What are your thoughts on provisional registration? Email [email protected].

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