Dental students workingConcerns are growing over whether dental students in Scottish universities will graduate in 2021 following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lockdowns over the past 12 months are limiting the amount of clinical experience many dental undergraduates can gain.

BDA Scotland has written an open letter to MPs calling for action to limit the impacts on future education. It highlights that students often graduate dental school with more than £34,000 of debt. An extra year of education would push this over £40,000.

‘What dental students across Scotland really need now is certainty,’ David McColl, chair, British Dental Association’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee, says.

‘The Scottish government must offer a safety net, which protects the next generation, supports our universities, and secures the future of patient care.

‘Should these students be unable to graduate in 2021 it will have a serious impact on both the workforce and patients’ ability to access NHS services.

‘We should not leave the pipeline of health professionals at risk. We need to see a plan that doesn’t saddle graduates with unmanageable debt. That keeps schools viable, and ensures Scotland has the dentists it needs.’

Additional funding

BDA Scotland goes further and calls on the Scottish government to offer emergency bursaries for any additional study periods.

It also asks for:

  • Appropriate support for dental schools covering tuition fees where appropriate
  • Teaching grants and clinical placement funding
  • Ongoing support for the network of NHS trainers who take on trainees following graduation.

The association also goes on to highlight how any disruption could have a significant impact on patient access to dental services.

NHS workers receive £500 ‘thank you’

The concerns come after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a ‘no strings attached’ £500 payment to all full-time NHS workers.

She says this is to give recognition for the work carried out by front line staff during the COVID pandemic. On top of this she announced negotiations under way to increase pay for NHS staff.

However, the Scottish government doesn’t have the power to make the payment tax free. It called on Boris Johnson to ensure ‘NHS heroes’ are not taxed on their payment.

‘Those who have worked at the sharpest end of the COVID trauma deserve recognition now,’ Ms Sturgeon says.

‘The Scottish government will give every full time NHS and adult social care worker £500 as a one-off thank you payment. Those who work part time will get a proportionate share.

‘The money will be paid this financial year and is separate to any negotiations to payments in the longer term. There are no strings attached.

‘It is a demonstration of what we collectively owe you (NHS workers).’