BSDHT and BADT contact GDC concerning overseas dentists registering as Dental Therapists and Hygienists without practical assessment

The British Association of Dental Therapists (BADT) and the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) have taken the unusual step of directly contacting each appointed Council member of the General Dental Council regarding overseas dentists registering as Dental Therapists and Dental Hygienists without any practical assessment of clinical skills.

Both BADT and BSDHT feel that continuing interactions with the executive function of the GDC regarding this matter have failed to produce any positive movement towards change in a situation that both organisations feel compromises patient safety. By directly raising awareness to the appointed Council members, BADT and BSDHT hope to move the discussion into the public forum to ensure change, in order to “protect patient safety and maintain public confidence in dental services”.

The letter reads as follows:

The British Association of Dental Therapists and the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy are jointly lobbying all members of Council to initiate an urgent and public Council meeting agenda item regarding the registration of overseas trained dentists (outwith the EEA) as dental hygienists and dental therapists without any practical assessment of their ability to diagnose and treat dental disease.

There has been a 300% increase via this route to registration since 2017 and is being fuelled by several agencies actively recruiting individuals predominantly from India and Pakistan. These agencies advertise and demonstrate that this route to registration requires no Overseas Registration Exam (ORE). We have evidence of dentists who have failed the ORE more than once yet gone on to register as dental hygienists and dental therapists. When asked, the GDC refuses to share the legal advice they were given that led to this flood of registrations.

Are you, a member of Council, satisfied the “robust” process applied by the Registration Assessment Committee satisfies your remit of protecting patients? We, the BADT and BSDHT, advise all members of Council that this route to registration presents risk of serious harm to patients because of the lack of a practical skills assessment. We strongly feel that the mapping of learning outcomes carried out by the Registration Committee is woefully inadequate. We do not accept the representation by GDC executive arm that a lack of evidence of harm being caused by these individuals demonstrates the above is a safe route to registration as a dental hygienist and dental therapist.

13 of the 15 tests applied at an ORE are applicable to the scope of practice of dental hygienists and dental therapists. Various Freedom of Information Requests that have been shared publicly clearly demonstrate that around 50% of those taking the ORE fail at the practical assessment stage. We say that this is evidence enough that there is an obvious risk of patients coming to permanent harm should these individuals go on to register as dental hygienists and dental therapists. We ask:

Would you choose an individual who has failed the ORE, gone on to register as a dental therapist, to extract your children’s teeth; would you let them provide you with a filling? We ask you apply the daughter test to the above question.

Would you allow your daughter to undergo treatment by such an individual?

We contend that Section 36C (5)(a)(ii) of the Dentist Act gives the GDC the power to enforce a test on these individuals. We ask that the GDC suspend this route to registration in the interest of patient safety and treats this matter with the upmost urgency.