Overseas dental recruitment: are the long-awaited changes finally underway?

Earlier in the year, it was announced that there were talks about changes to the overseas registration process. The aim is to make things more straightforward for international dental professionals to start practising in the UK. The General Dental Council (GDC) were consulting on certain international registration reforms, to allow them more flexibility with regards to setting rules and amending routes to registration.

Ultimately, the GDC want to modernise the registration process, better supporting those who qualify overseas while still protecting the public and ensuring professionals meet UK practising standards. Will these changes make a marked difference? What else could be done to streamline the overseas registration pathway?

Overseas registration: a tale as old as time

It goes without saying that for overseas dental professionals wishing to practise in the UK, the process has always been laborious. Matters were exacerbated by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, the latter of which left many professionals in a sort of limbo situation waiting to sit their exams, which had been suspended – there is now a backlog of approximately 5000 applications for the Overseas Registration Exam (ORE). Prior to these events, registration to practise in the UK had been difficult, even after graduation. For many, there tends to be a paucity of support and induction into the role – this then leads to Fitness to Practise hearings that actually aren’t related to their ability to work. Understandably, this can be a huge source of stress for the individual.

It is unsurprising that there has been much talk and debate about improving the registration and practising process for overseas dentists. It’s been suggested that to better support those who have qualified overseas, national communications courses should be established and funded. Similarly, for those who apply for temporary registration, improvements must be made with regards to supervision. This could include better training for supervisors, so they can provide only the best support. Additionally, dedicated centres for dental development could be beneficial, too. For those who complete the ORE, a year of foundation training may be necessary in order to work for the NHS – could there be a way to allow overseas dental professionals more autonomy, which can make it easier for them to practise and gain experience?

{my}dentist have their own induction programme which covers all expenses (travel, accommodation) and provides mentors for overseas professionals. They also provide information on regulatory best practice and careers advice – essentially, setting them up with the right information and guidance prior to being placed in a practice! Could pathways like this become more commonplace?

Ultimately, it’s vital that the UK nurtures and properly supervises overseas dental professionals, to not only reduce the headache of registering from overseas, but to also ensure they have a good impression of working in the UK. They deserve to begin their career in the UK with the right support at their side.

Could this be the ‘silver bullet’ for the recruitment crisis?

Recruitment remains an intense struggle across the breadth of the UK. Could these changes to the overseas registration process help alleviate the recruitment struggles, by making it easier for overseas professionals to apply? As of yet, this is difficult to predict. The issues that have contributed to the recruitment crisis are still deeply imbedded within the profession – fears of litigation, stress, burnout and dissatisfaction with NHS contracts, to name but a few.

When overseas professionals enter the UK, more should be done on a national and regional level to ensure that these individuals are placed in the areas that need them the most. Certain places within the UK have incredibly low numbers of NHS dentists per 100,000 of the population, including: North Lincolnshire (32 NHS dentists), North East Lincolnshire (37 NHS dentists), East Riding of Yorkshire (37 NHS dentists) and Norfolk and Waveney (38 NHS dentists).[i] Certain areas of the Midlands and the East of England have lists of approved practices for overseas dentists – this method of assigning overseas professionals could be implemented in other areas of the country.

Reforming the registration process won’t cure the country’s issues with recruitment, but it seems that more could be done to ensure overseas dental professionals are better utilised and placed where they are needed most.

Weathering the storm

There have long been calls to reform and modernise the international registration process. It seems the ball is finally rolling and there are plans in the works to make the international registration pathway more effective. The end is not yet in sight, but these proposed changes do offer some hope that, eventually, international dental professionals can apply to work in the UK through a more streamlined process.

For more information contact Dental Elite. Visit www.dentalelite.co.uk, email info@dentalelite.co.uk or call 01788 545 900