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Tory MP calls for Tier 2 visas to be accessible for dentists

Comments by Sanwar Ali:

It seems difficult to find people in the UK even to fill what can be well paid professional level jobs.  Apparently the average salary for a dentist is about £60,000 a year with some earning far more than that.  Would it not be beneficial to have mutual recognition of qualifications of qualified dentists and other professionals at least from EU Countries.  That would help to alleviate potential skills shortages from 1 January 2021.  The Tier 2 visa and Tier 2 Sponsor Licence system will continue to be difficult to come under from 1 January 2021.

Tory MP for Peterborough and member of the Commons’ Health and Social Care Select Committee, Paul Bristow, has urged the UK government to make it easier for the NHS to hire dentists following the Brexit transitional period. Amid declining dentist numbers in Britain, Bristow has called for UK visas to be easily accessible for dentists.

Bristow said: “As we prepare to leave the European Union on January 31, the UK is forging new bilateral relationships and turning towards our long time Commonwealth allies.

“As we do so, we will gain the flexibility to solve many of our national challenges, both big and small, as a part of the global community. One such challenge is improving access to dentistry.”

Dentists declining

According to official statistics, NHS dentist numbers across the country are in decline, with Bristow saying that his constituency is no exception. Data shows that Peterborough has seen a drop in dentist numbers of 2.5% from between 2018 and 2020.

Across other regions in the UK, dentist numbers have slumped more dramatically, with local people paying the price. In Plymouth, a recent report shows that 14,000 patients, 3,000 of them children, are on a growing list for dental care.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for people to access dental care. The Association of Dental Groups found that fewer patients are being seen, while some of the most vulnerable groups are being hit hardest.

However, prior to the pandemic, many parts of Britain were seeing a rise in oral health problems due to a shortage of dentists. According to data from 2019, new cases of mouth cancer increased by 10% across the UK.

Meanwhile, hospitals in England carried out an average of 177 operations a day on children and teenagers to remove rotting teeth, at a cost of £40 million to the NHS.

Attract and train dentists

Bristow said: “To ensure that people can get the treatment they need, we need to attract and train more people here in the UK to become dentists. But this is not a short-term fix. Currently, training takes five years to complete and COVID-19 has further complicated matters for dental students.”

“With COVID-19 exacerbating the existing crisis in access to dentistry, we need to act immediately,” Bristow added.

Peterborough’s Tory MP argued that Brexit represents an opportunity to reverse declining dentist numbers by attracting ‘outstanding clinicians from around the world.’

Bristow said: “As we build relationships with potential trading partners outside of Europe, we should look at making it easier for overseas professionals to enter UK dentistry through the Tier 2 visa system.”

Mr Bristow pointed to India as an example of one of many Commonwealth countries with outstanding dental schools. India reportedly trains more than 30,000 dentists per year, leading to an over-supply of skilled dentists in the country and significant demand for British qualifications.

Bristow said: “Once Britain’s exit from the EU is finalised, we could assess and mutually recognise those schools that meet our standards. If just 10% of the dentists trained every year in India were recruited to work in NHS dentistry in the UK, the current severe problem of access would be dramatically reduced.”

Dentists face too many obstacles

The Tory MP for Peterborough claims that skilled overseas dentists wanting to work in Britain face ‘too many obstacles’. Over the past 12 months it has taken, on average, 199 days for the NHS to recruit an EU dentist, despite current mutual recognition.

For qualified candidates outside Europe, the Tier 2 visa system is considered hugely complex, making the recruitment process even more difficult.

Bristow said: “Now is time for the system to be simplified and hurdles removed. In the summer, the government announced a new Tier 2 health and social care visa to attract the best overseas professionals to work for the NHS.”

“Over the next few months we could build on this by making it easier for skilled dentists and dental therapists from overseas with an offer of a contract to start work for the Health Service in the UK,” Bristow added.

General Dental Council

Amid declining dentist numbers, the General Dental Council is also being pushed to look at how the Overseas Registration Exam for dentists can be reformed, including recognition of qualifications obtained at overseas dental schools that meet UK standards outside of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Mr Bristow said: “Making it easier for the NHS to recruit skilled clinicians from overseas in this way will improve patient access to vital NHS dentistry, particularly in more deprived parts of the country where oral health outcomes are being hardest hit.”

“It will also help us take advantage of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union by creating closer relationships with Commonwealth countries. It would be good for global Britain and good for communities across the UK, from Plymouth to Peterborough,” Mr Bristow added.

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