Dental Schools Council response to the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan
The Dental Schools Council (DSC) congratulates the government on producing the first ever Long-Term Workforce Plan in the history of the NHS. DSC welcomes and is supportive of the government’s ambitions to invest in dental education in England and the future dental workforce.
DSC has called for an increase in dentistry and dental therapist places in our priorities for the government on national oral health, and it is encouraging that the government is committed to addressing this shortfall. We look forward to working with the government alongside our stakeholders in the forthcoming planning stages that will be essential to ensuring a successful dental expansion, including in the upcoming Dental Plan.
Supporting dental schools to deliver expansion in dentistry, dental hygiene, and therapist places (DH&T)
In order to deliver the welcomed increases proposed in the Workforce Plan, it will be essential that alongside scaled and proportional funding, expansion is managed in a way that preserves critical mass of teaching and research talent, and investment in buildings.
- Dental schools have capacity to train more students with the right investment. Funding will need to be maintained or increased per student, including for clinical rotations.
- Funding for dental therapists and dental hygienists must address shortfalls in the existing model. Current funding for clinical placements in dental therapy degrees falls far short of what it costs to deliver.
- Capital funding should be directed towards maintaining and improving existing buildings rather than building new ones and this should be supported by a new dedicated, ongoing, fund. This will ensure that current facilities and any future infrastructure projects will be able to meet increases in capacity and modern infection control requirements.
- Dental nurses, whose training is supported by dental schools and hospitals, are an important part of the dental team and their role and numbers should be considered in the continued workforce discussions.
- Dental Foundation Training placement provision and funding will need to anticipate an increase in students. Discussion is needed to better understand this process.
Increasing access to careers in dentistry
Dentistry is a highly oversubscribed subject, but we must ensure that we are continuing to improve ways to access the largest talent pool possible, recruiting students from all backgrounds who have the potential to become excellent oral healthcare professionals.
- DSC will support dental schools to offer increased outreach services in underserved ‘cold spots’ to widen access to the profession. Dental schools are increasingly involved in outreach activities and are finding ways to tackle geographical inequalities in dental education by reaching out to underserved areas through initiatives such as summer schools, contextual admissions, and foundation programmes.
- Dental schools are supportive of other innovative approaches that could alleviate pressures in the NHS such as apprenticeship schemes and graduate entry programmes. DSC looks forward to engaging with stakeholders to better understand how these proposals could be delivered.
- Dental schools are keen to address disparities in oral healthcare provision by adjusting dental school recruitment practices and once established, engaging with the proposed Centres for Dental Development.
Supporting retention of current staff including the development of a new NHS contract
It is essential that dental schools can promote strong, long-term careers in the NHS, to encourage students to enter NHS service on graduation and improve retention.
- 97% of dental graduates currently continue to Dental Foundation Training but urgent changes to the NHS contract will be necessary to incentivise more graduates to continue working in the health service after their Foundation Training. This will require changes in legislation and DSC is keen to offer its support to scoping activities.
- Considerable funding and planning are needed to enable the career progression and working culture that new graduates are seeking. DSC looks forward to the publication of the NHS EDI Plan and is engaging through the Diversity in Dentistry Action Group to understand and address barriers to fairness in dentistry.
- We need to ensure clinical academic pathways are accessible, realistic, and desirable careers for graduates and support academics currently in training. Dental school research in ‘cold spot’ areas also has the potential to improve dental outcomes in underserved communities.
On the launch of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, Professor Kirsty Hill, Chair of the Dental Schools Council said:
“Dental schools are supportive of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan and we hope that it signifies the beginning of efforts to tackle the pressing challenges facing UK oral healthcare. Expansion is a significant and positive development, and we commend the government for recognising the importance of increasing dental hygiene and dental therapist positions. These roles play a vital role in enhancing capacity and improving care. In order to maximise the potential of this expansion, we also need to make sure that all oral healthcare careers are valued and that a career in NHS dentistry is attractive and rewarding. This will involve important discussions around contractual reform.
“The implementation of the Workforce Plan must come hand-in-hand with strong engagement with the Dental Schools Council and other key stakeholders. DSC looks forward to sharing its national expertise on this process and on the upcoming NHS Dental Plan.”
- The Dental Schools Council is the authoritative voice of the dental schools within universities across the United Kingdom and Ireland. Its Chief Executive is Dr Katie Petty-Saphon. For further information about the work of the Dental Schools Council please see www.dentalschoolscouncil.ac.uk.
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