NHS dentistry

Should new dentists have to work in the NHS, asks the government

The government is exploring whether newly qualified dentists should be compelled to work in the NHS after their training has finished in a new consultation being launched today, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The DHSC says that a growing number of dentists are choosing to go straight into private practice, or are delivering very little NHS care once their postgraduate dental foundation training has been completed.

Figures suggest that, of the circa 35,000 dentists registered with the General Dental Council in England, only 24,000 delivered NHS work during 2022/23, meaning almost a third did no work for the health service at all.

To tackle this, the DHSC is seeking views on whether newly qualified dentists should commit to delivering a minimum amount of NHS dental care for a certain number of years after their graduation, and whether they should repay some of their training fees if they do not.

The government estimates that training a single dentist can cost up to £300,000 – students do not have to repay around £200,000 of that.

Andrea Leadsom comment

“I want to make access to dentistry faster, simpler and fairer for everyone – and part of this is ensuring that dentists are supporting the NHS with their skills and expertise,” said the health secretary, Victoria Atkins.

“Taxpayers make a significant investment in training dentists, so it is only right to expect dental graduates to work in the NHS once they’ve completed their training.”

The DHSC believes working in the NHS will give new dentists the best start to their careers, specifically due to the:

  • Broad range of experience available
  • Great support from strong teams of dental professionals
  • Comprehensive training

Andrea Leadsom, the primary care minister, commented: “I want to thank our hard-working dentists for their efforts in treating more and more patients over recent years and helping us improve access to care.”

Compared to the previous year, the amount of ‘courses of treatments delivered’ by NHS dentists increased by 23% in 2022/23.

“Today’s proposals will ensure dental graduates benefit from the broad experience and comprehensive training of working in the NHS, while also delivering value for money for the taxpayer,” added Andrea.

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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