Scottish dental students forced to repeat a year

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All dental students in Scotland will have to repeat a year after their training was disrupted by Covid.

Scotland's dental schools said students had not been able to gain sufficient clinical experience of aerosol generating procedures.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said she understood how disappointing it would be for students across the country.

She said the Scottish government was determined to support students and was providing extra bursary payments.

The bursaries will be the equivalent of a student loan award which could be up to £6,750, she said.

Mrs Freeman said the decision to make the students repeat a year was a "tough one".

"It is about giving dental students the experience that has been denied them this year because of the pandemic," she said.

"We need to ensure that people studying dentistry can enter the profession as confident fully-qualified clinicians."

'Insufficient experience'

Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow Dental Schools have all taken the decision to defer graduations.

They said the students had not been able to gain sufficient clinical experience of aerosol generating procedures (AGPs), which can result in droplets being thrown into the air, creating the potential for Covid-19 to spread.

AGPs, involving the use of high-speed instruments, represent the majority of dental treatments.

Graduation for students at Dundee and Glasgow Dental Schools will be deferred until summer 2022 with all current year groups repeating the 2020-21 academic year.

Graduation for students in the final year at Aberdeen will be deferred until Christmas 2021 and all other students will repeat the 2020-21 academic year.

Prof Phil Taylor, who is dean of the faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said he understood and supported the decision taken by Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow dental schools.

He said: "Patient safety is always at the forefront of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh's actions and this decision supports our efforts in this respect.

"Dentistry as a profession has been uniquely disadvantaged throughout the pandemic in comparison to other primary care services due to the lack of meaningful support made available for the sector, and this is one of the many resulting knock-on effects.

"I sincerely hope dental students are able to obtain a high standard of practical training and experience as part of their studies over the course of the coming academic year, which will benefit the dental profession as a whole going forward."

Student leaders also welcomed the bursaries but asked for clarity from the Scottish government to ensure all students could benefit from support.

Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland president, said: "The marketisation of universities means many students have to pay astronomical fees to access education, it is only right these dentistry students should be given full compensation."

Big blow

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: "It is a big blow to people who would have been in their final year and who had been hoping to get into employment very soon.

"It just shows that we need to look at the impact this is having on the younger generation - those at school, college, university and those who are about to graduate.

"They are going to be the generation that is really going to feel the effects of this for some time."

The Scottish government said aerosol procedures were common in dentistry placements but unusual in other clinical settings such as medicine, nursing and midwifery.

Students on those courses will not be required to repeat a year and any extensions to their programmes will be covered by other arrangements.

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