This month, the BBC revealed a lengthy delay in administrative processes for newly qualified dentists. This delay means that, at the very start of their careers, many new dentists are unable to lawfully carry out NHS dental work.
Following qualification, new dentists need to obtain what is known as a ‘performance number’. This number enables them to carry out NHS duties. Without this number, dentists are restricted to being able to carry out private dental work only.
In previous years, the NHS managed the applications process, and dentists were provided with a number within roughly six weeks. This meant that, soon after qualification, dentists were able to take up NHS posts and carry out the full range of tasks they’d trained for. However, the process has now been outsourced to a private organisation, Capita, who now carry out many other NHS administrative processes, and it can now take up to seven months from initial application to completion and issue of a performer number.
According to the British Dental Association, there could be as many 300 dentists in the UK who are currently awaiting their performer number. Having spent years training, these dentists are now stuck waiting before they can carry out their full range of work. They can, of course, still practise privately.
As well as causing frustration for the dentists, this scenario doesn’t help patients across the country who are awaiting treatment, as surgeries cannot fill their NHS posts.
To ease matters, a period of grace was introduced whereby those dentists who completed their training in England were allowed to practise for two months without a performer number over the December to January 2016 period. This did not apply to dentists who completed their training abroad. The idea behind this was that this would give Capita time to catch up and clear some of the back log of applications. Unfortunately, some dentists are still in a position whereby they haven’t yet received their numbers.
Capita told the BBC that they were aware of the issue and were prioritising finding a solution and making improvements to their processes to reduce the waiting time for numbers.
For more information, and to read the full BBC article, please visit their website.