Provisional registration for overseas-trained dentitists

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Provisional registration proposed for overseas-trained dentists in the UK

An open consultation has been launched on simplifying the UK registration process for overseas-trained dentists with the aim of expanding the dental workforce and patient care. (Image: 3rdtimeluckystudio/Shutterstock)

LONDON, UK: Dentists with overseas qualifications looking to practise in the UK are currently subject to an extensive registration process. As part of a wider government and National Health Service (NHS) recovery plan to boost the dental workforce and improve patients’ access to care, an open consultation is currently exploring the possibility of simplifying the registration process for overseas-trained dentists in order to enable them to start practising as quickly as possible. The consultation period is set to conclude in mid-May.

Currently, dentists with overseas qualifications who wish to practise in the UK are required to pass examinations that can take years to complete, resulting in significant delays before they can offer dental services. The new proposal would grant the General Dental Council (GDC) the authority to provisionally register dentists with overseas qualifications and would give the GDC autonomy in setting the terms for such in order to ensure that patient safety and quality of care are maintained.

Dentists with a provisional registration would be able to work in various dental settings, including high-street practices, under the guidance of a fully registered GDC dentist. Currently, about 30% of dentists on the GDC register hold qualifications from outside the UK, and in 2022, overseas-trained dentists constituted 46% of the new entries to the register.

The Right Honourable Dame Andrea Leadsom, DBE, parliamentary undersecretary of state for primary care and public health, said in a press release: “Our dental recovery plan will create millions more dental appointments, improve access for patients and ease pressure on the sector. Our hard-working dentists deserve our gratitude and this is the start of our plan to put the sector on a sustainable footing.”

She added: “Strengthening the workforce is key to our ambitions and our proposals would abolish red tape that currently prevents fully qualified overseas dentists from working in this country, while ensuring the highest standards of care and patient safety. We have a long-term plan to make access to NHS dental care faster, simpler and fairer for all, and I want to make sure we hear views from across the sector as we drive this forward.”

Stefan Czerniawski, executive director of strategy at the GDC, commented: “We very much welcome the government’s openness to new ideas for ways of streamlining international registration. Provisional registration is an exciting opportunity that will require commitment and collaboration from across dentistry on the design and delivery of the new approach.”

“We need to move at pace, but we need to take the time to get this right—and we will work with stakeholders across the dental sector and four nations to do so,” he continued.

At the end of the three-month consultation period on 16 May, the responses will be analysed and incorporated into a comprehensive final report. These insights will also contribute to the refinement of the proposed legislation, which is scheduled to be presented to Parliament for discussion.

More information on the open consultation can be found here. The online survey can be accessed via this link.

First voices point out challenges to provisional registration

Responding to the recently announced proposal, John Makin, head of the Dental Defence Union (DDU), a professional indemnity organisation in the UK, said in a statement: “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.”

He pointed out that appropriate supervision of potentially significant numbers of provisionally registered dentists could become challenging. Therefore, the DDU will be carefully reviewing the proposal and assessing the potential risks.

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