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Meeting with the GDC about overseas dentists registering as Dental Therapists: posted 25/03/2020

Dear Colleague

I am writing to update you about a recent meeting I attended at the GDC. You may be aware from social media platforms that there is a lot of interest and conversation about overseas trained dentists registering with the GDC as dental therapists or dental hygienists. There are a growing number of agencies who are advertising that they can assist these potential registrants, offering to help them with the forms and even references, and active overseas recruitment is now happening too, particularly within the corporate sector.

I became aware of this last year when I was contacted by a very concerned therapist involved in one of the Therapist VT schemes. I enlisted the help of Dental Protection (through my own membership) and one of their solicitors dissected the Dentists Act to investigate the legality of this. It appears there is a loophole that is being exploited. This led to an extensive project of work which resulted in the formulation of a position statement which we sent to the GDC, and which I attach for your information. I must thank Shaun Howe and Paul Felton (Shaun is a BADT member and Paul is a retired dentist who fully supports therapists and employed them in his own practice, and he is also a journalist) for their dogged determination and assistance with this evidence gathering and writing the statement. Their support has been invaluable.

The GDC agreed to meet with us and I invited BSDHT to join us. Initially we were also being accompanied by the BDA, DPL, DDU, MDDUS and FGDP (UK) all of whom shared our concerns and wanted to support our position, however the GDC declined to meet with anyone other than BADT & BSDHT. Debbie McGovern (President) and Bev Littlemore(Education and Training) came with me to represent BADT, and thank you to both of them for taking time off their full time jobs to do this. Bev, Sarah Murray (BSDHT) and I are also involved in DTH training and were able to comment from the educational perspective. During the meeting we focused on the fact that there is a required assessment of clinical skills to register as a dentist (the Overseas Registration Exam, ORE) but not to register as a therapist or hygienist, and we feel this disparity is potentially putting both patient safety, and therapists reputation at risk and implies a 2 tier level of skills in the common elements of scope of practice.

The GDC feel their processes are robust, and that there is no threat to patient safety, however BADT refute that completely, and are surprised the GDC seem happy to wait for patients to be harmed before they look at their processes. This view was firmly expressed to them in the meeting. By the end of the meeting, the GDC attitude had softened considerably, but I did find it all very frustrating! They have agreed to look at this issue now, however they will move at a glacial pace, so I don’t anticipate definitive movement in the near future. We have requested a follow up meeting, and I am contacting them weekly with more evidence and just to keep nipping at their heels and remind them that I am not going to let this drop. The indemnifiers are also requesting a meeting and the BDA has written to them expressing the same concerns as us.

As individuals, we can complain to the GDC that we feel there is a threat to patient safety and I would encourage you all to do that, feel free to use the contents of the position statement to help you compose your complaint. Please be assured that the Association is continuing to apply pressure on your behalf and is working closely with the other stakeholders to ensure this matter is not dropped, and is pursued to a satisfactory conclusion.

I would also ask that if any of you have any experience of these newly registered clinicians and have felt any concerns, would you please let me know, and I can include it in our growing evidence (anything you submit will be anonymised).

Thank you so much for reading this extensive email, and I will keep you all posted on any news, and lets hope for some progress.

Best wishes to you all

Debbie

Debbie Hemington
Chair, BADT

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