Training places are inadequate
 

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Training places are inadequate

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Training places are inadequate

 

Training places are inadequate

Government plans to fund an extra 100 places for trainee dentists have been branded ‘woefully inadequate’ by opposition MPs.

Ministers will pay for 62 slots at the universities of Exeter and Plymouth, 32 in Lancashire and Cumbria, and six in Hull - fuelling accusations they are failing to tackle the North-South divide in oral health.

But the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which allocates cash to dental schools, said it planned to press the Education Department for extra money to train more orthodontic students.

Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs said it was imperative the Government forked out for new places in a bid to crack the dental crisis engulfing large areas of England.

Steve Webb, the Lib Dem health spokesman, said: ‘to be honest, 100 new training places sounds woefully inadequate. The length of time it takes to train someone would mean they were not available until many years down the track.

‘Also, the fact that the north of England should only get 30 or 40 training places seems absurd because dental problems are worse there and there is a shortage of dentists. Research shows that most dentists eventually practice in the place they train, so the location of the new places won't do anything to address the North-South divide in dental care.’

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:

‘Hopefully some of the dentists trained in Plymouth will practice in the north of England. But the Government needs to do a lot more to reduce the widening health inequalities, of which dentistry is a major part.’

Last week, Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell announced the Government would fund 100 new dental training places. Fourteen universities submitted bids - eight which already have dental schools and six which hoped to establish new dental schools.

In total, there were bids for 578 places.

In a ministerial written statement, Mr Rammell told the House of Commons: ‘The majority of the bids were of very high quality offering a wide range of innovations in recruiting students and staff and teaching methods.’

But he added: ‘Strategic/geographical considerations were therefore of particular significance’, saying: ‘there are five dental schools and teaching hospitals in the North, but none south of a line from Bristol to London. But he acknowledged levels of dental disease were higher in the North.’

Exeter and Plymouth universities will create a new Peninsula Dental School, with places for 62 students a year from 2007.
A joint bid by the University of Liverpool and the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston, will create 32 outreach training dental places for students in Lancashire and Cumbria.

And the University of Leeds will be allocated six new places to develop outreach training for dental students in Hull.

But official new statistics uncovered by Dentistry magazine reveal the five Strategic Health Authority areas with fewest dentists per 10,000 patients are all in the North.

And the six areas with most dentists per 10,000 patients are all in the south. Nationally, there are 4.17 dentists per 10,000 people.

HEFCE spokesman Phillip Walker said that unsuccessful bids had been of ‘a very, very high standard’ but official's hands were tied because there was simply too little funding.

He said the board would meet unsuccessful new applicants - including the University of Stafford and University of Southampton - later this month to discuss where their bids faltered. He said: ‘The bids were of a very, very high standard.
‘If we'd had the resources, we would have accepted many more bids, but it simply was not possible to do that. We only had a certain number of places we could allocate.

‘We are required to give advice to the Secretary of State on our forthcoming budget. If the DoH believe there is a demand for more dentists, we will certainly look at asking for more money for dental training places.’

But Barry Cockcroft, acting CDO for the DoH said: ‘There are now more NHS dentists than ever. Since April 2004, we have invested an extra £250 million in dental services and recruited the equivalent of over 1,400 dentists to the NHS nationwide. There are likely to be up to a further 1,000 overseas dentists ready to join the workforce over the next year and we have increased dental training places by 25%.’

The BDA also welcomed the news. Matthew Fallowfield, BDA’s executive chair said: ‘The BDA has campaigned hard for extra places for dental students and we’re glad we’ve been listened to. This will help address the shortage of dentists in the UK, and is good news for patients who find it hard to get dental care.’

 Posted on : Tue 14th - Feb - 2006

 

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