Covid in Scotland: Dental schools unable to take on new students

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image captionDental students have been unable to get face-to-face patient contact during the pandemic

Scotland's dental schools will not admit new students in September due to existing trainees having to repeat the academic year.

It was announced last week that dental students had not been able to gain sufficient clinical experience during the Covid pandemic.

Graduations of final year students were postponed and all others were told they would have to repeat a year.

Universities Scotland said this would mean no new students this year.

A spokesman said: "Dentistry is an area which has been particularly badly hit by the Covid pandemic, due to the risk of spread of the virus via aerosol transmission. This has severely limited clinical training.

"All applicants who interviewed for September 2021 entry will still receive a final decision on their interview by 20th May 2021 but any offers made this year will be for a deferred start date of September 2022.

"Our sympathies go out to these incoming students who, like so many people, are having their life plans severely disrupted."

High-speed instruments

Scotland's dental schools previously said 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 dental students at Dundee and Glasgow universities will be deferred until summer 2022 with all current year groups repeating the academic year.

The same will happen at Aberdeen but final year students will only be deferred until Christmas.

'I wouldn't have felt safe this year'

Savanna Joyce, 28, from Orkney, is a final year dental student at the University of Aberdeen.

Her graduation has been deferred until December - it's a decision she said she knew was coming.

The reality, however, was still overwhelming.

"Everybody in our year understands that patient safety is the priority, and despite being disheartened we all agree it's the right decision," she said.

She conceded that the dental school being closed "did have quite an impact" on learning, as practical work was not possible.

And there had been a financial impact too - she ran out of money this year, and had to take on a job alongside her degree. "Without the promise of support, I wouldn't have been able to stay on," she said.

Ms Joyce said: "I wouldn't have felt safe going out this year. Covid has impacted us so much - we've had far less clinical experience so I'm glad that it's extended.

"We are all very accepting of the decisions," she added.

The British Dental Association Scotland had warned the lack of new students could lead to far more competition for training places.

They said it could translate into major problems for the NHS workforce that could be felt for years to come.

David McColl, from the British Dental Association, said it would be very disappointing for people hoping to take up a place at dental school this year.

"What we said to the Scottish government was that we need to put something in place," he said.

"We just can't defer them for a year without them being included within dentistry in some shape or form.

"If they are keen we want to keep them involved in dentistry."

At Friday's lunchtime coronavirus briefing, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said it was an "inevitable and pragmatic decision" to extend the training programme of existing dental students.

He said: "I am confident there will be the ability for new dental students to be able to secure places and to be able to take forward their dental training."

Mr Swinney said he would be discussing the issues with the dental schools and the British Dental Association.

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