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News / June 25, 2008

Dentists struggle to find jobs in Northern Ireland

by Guy Hiscott

Almost a third of dental graduates who applied to work in Northern Ireland have failed to obtain a training post, despite a huge demand for NHS dentists.

In 2008, only 32 of the 45 graduates who applied to work in Northern Ireland were able to find training posts.

Claudette Christie, of the British Dental Association, said the Department of Health had to do more to allow graduates to work in Northern Ireland.

‘We are seeing high quality graduates having to leave the country,’ she said.

‘It costs £178,000 to train a dental student and if you look at the number of graduates who are forced to exit the country, clearly more has to be done to enable dental graduates to work in Northern Ireland.’

Ms Christie said the problem lay in recruiting training practices which could make additional surgery facilities and staff available to offer graduates vocational training (VT) posts.

Dr David Hussey, Postgraduate Dental Dean at the Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency, said more than had 50 dentists applied to be trainers for trainees graduating in 2008. Yet, only 32 of those dentists were taken on to fill the 36 trainer positions available.

‘Not every dentist is in a position to offer training – they may have only one surgery, low patient numbers, or they may lack the interpersonal skills to be a trainer,’ he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said Health Minister Michael McGimpsey invested a further £500,000 in the last financial year to encourage more dentists to offer training posts.

A financial package is in place to off-set costs dentists incurred by taking on a trainee.

‘Dentists who act as trainers receive £19,000, with an additional £2,000 available in quality payments. Trainers also get to keep trainees’ gross income generated, which is an average of £40,000 per year,’ he said.

He also said the trainee received an annual salary of £29,000 which was paid by the Health Service.