Dental foundation training affairs are in the news again.
The UK Committee of Postgraduate Dental Deans and Directors (COPDEND) announced last month that 1,139 applicants will be competing for the estimated 952 funded training places in NHS practices that will be available in 2013. 1026 of the applicants are current students at or recent graduates from UK dental schools. The interview processes for these applications are currently taking place at selected sites throughout the UK including Greater Manchester.
All new dental graduates are supposed to be given a training place in a practice in the first year after graduation. In fact a few years ago in response to a shortage of NHS dentists, the government created an additional 77 new dental places by opening two new dental schools, UCLAN and Peninsula. However last year 35 new graduate dentists ended up without a training place job. I cannot imagine how desperately demoralising and shattering this experience must have been for these new graduate dentists.
In 2005 the Chief Dental Officer giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons stated that it cost the taxpayer £250,000 to train each student dentist. That was seven years ago. According to the latest figures from COPDEND we could possibly end up with around 50 unemployed graduate dentists. Last year it was 35. If you add that all up in today’s money, that makes a figure of more than £12 million of wasted taxpayers’ money this year plus £9 million wasted last year with 35 unemployed dental graduates – a frightening total of £21 million. On top of that these students are leaving universities with levels of debt approaching £50,000. If last year’s state of affairs is duplicated it will be heartbreaking for new graduate dentists and a waste of time and money for the taxpayer.
Trying to find your first job in the run up to your final dental examinations must be an extremely stressful experience. To go through a difficult complicated application procedure and rigorous interview process, only not to be allocated a place must be extremely demoralising and distressing. To make matters worse we now have a large influx of new European Union graduates where the economy has hit a downturn who do not even have to do foundation training yet some of them have actually got places on the foundation training scheme.
We know that the government has to make cutbacks and that we live in an era where difficult choices have to be made. However it is a crazy state of affairs that the NHS invests £250,000 in training a new dentist only for that dentist not to be able to find a job within the NHS. With this round of applications for 2013 foundation dental places well underway I urge the government to make sufficient funds available for all dental foundation training places as a matter of priority