When I qualified back in 1986 newly qualified dentists could go and work in any job. In fact I could even have opened up a new practice and stuck my Tariq Drabu nameplate on it. Many adverts for associate dental jobs welcomed new graduates. This was a seemingly blissful state of affairs for all concerned.
However, the reality was that newly qualified dentists were not in a position technically or administratively to go straight in to independent practice. I would have been a fool if I thought that I could stick my Tariq Drabu nameplate on the front of a cold “squat practice” and hope that I could competently treat patients.
The profession realised that this was a state of affairs that was untenable in the long term. Hence vocational training was born in the 1980s. Newly qualified dentists would spend a year in a training practice being supported and mentored by an experienced practitioner. After completing this training year, they were then considered fit to be able to work independently in NHS practice. Selection criteria to be a training practice were tough. High standards were required. The scheme was first set up down south it but soon became national. It was administered by local deaneries. It is now known as foundation year one training (DF1) . Tariq Drabu and Langley Dental Practice have been a training practice for seven out of the last eight years.
The scheme was supposed to match up the number of newly qualified UK dentists with the number of vacancies available. For the first time this year there are not enough DF1 training places available for newly qualified UK dentists. Out of 1145 applicants 35 have not been able to get a job. Without completing a year of DF1 training, these dentists will not be able to get an NHS performer number and hence they will not be able to work independently in NHS practice. This is a crazy state of affairs. The problem has been made worse by increasing number of European Union graduates do not actually have to do this year of training. However some of them have been recruited to the DF1 scheme. This too is a very strange state of affairs. Ironically the number of new graduates who cannot get jobs (35) is around half the number of new graduates from the newly established dental schools Peninsula and UCLAN. It is estimated that these new graduates have cost the taxpayer around £9 million to train.
To have fully qualified dentists who have completed five years of university training sitting on the scrapheap is a scandalous state of affairs. The government needs to get its act together urgently