Cross-party group of MPs urge General Dental Council to ‘fill the gap’ in UK’s dental workforce

This week, 30 cross-party MPs and Peers showed their support at an event in Parliament, hosted by the Association of Dental Groups (ADG), to discuss how the UK can ‘fill the gap’ in its dental workforce.

At present, there are more than 5,500 dental vacancies in the UK and we have per capita among the lowest number of dentists in Europe, with only Bulgaria and Poland having fewer dentists per 1,000 people.

In 2022, 90% of surgeries were not accepting new adult patients and 80% were not accepting new child patients.

ADG is campaigning for a short-term intervention to compliment the NHS’s long-term plan to increase UK training of dentists, which will only see a boost to the workforce by the 2030s.

Various MPs and Peers in attendance at the “Fill the Gap” event co-signed a letter which addresses this immediate need by urging the General Dental Council to increase the capacity of the overseas registration exam (ORE).

Thousands of highly qualified overseas dentists – who could be practising in one of the UK’s many ‘dental deserts’ – are stuck in a backlog of applicants waiting to take the exam, with demand far outstripping supply for test places.

ADG believes that just 1,000 extra dentists would deliver 750,000 additional appointments.

The group of MPs and Peers have asked GDC to:

  • Increase the frequency of part 1 and part 2 of the ORE
  • Deliver part 1 of the ORE online or in British Council offices overseas
  • Improve the processing time for new applicants wanting to take the ORE
  • Prioritise candidates who will work in the NHS and will most likely pass the ORE
  • Bring forward planned reforms to recognise overseas diplomats

Neil Carmichael, the chair of ADG, said: ‘we are proud to come together with such a strong cohort of MPs and Peers to demand a better future for NHS dentistry.

‘UK dentistry is in a perilous state, caused, in large part, by a depleted workforce. As dental training takes almost a decade to complete it is vital that steps are taken in the immediate term to fill the gap in the dental workforce.

‘We are urging GDC to stop dragging its feet and reform the ORE to increase the recruitment of high-quality dentists in the UK and bring dental services from the brink.’



Notes for Editors:

  • The Association of Dental Groups (ADG) is the trade association for large dental providers in the UK. Our members include 25 of the largest groups of dental practices in the country, representing approximately 10,000 clinicians delivering NHS and private dentistry to more than 10 million patients every year.

Signatories to the letter included:

  1. Daisy Cooper MP, St Albans, Liberal Democrat
  2. Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Worthing West, Conservative
  3. Sir Paul Beresford MP, Mole Valley, Conservative
  4. Martin Vickers MP, Cleethorpes, Conservative
  5. Paul Bristow MP, Peterborough, Conservative
  6. Peter Aldous MP, Waveney, Conservative
  7. Ben Everitt MP, Milton Keynes North, Conservative
  8. Richard Foord MP, Tiverton and Honiton, Liberal Democrat
  9. Rachael Maskell MP, York Central, Labour Co-op
  10. Rt Hon Therese Coffey MP, Suffolk Coastal, Conservative
  11. Jason McCartney MP, Colne Valley, Conservative
  12. Steve Double MP, Austell and Newquay, Conservative
  13. Andrew Jones MP, Harrogate, Conservative
  14. Paul Blomfield MP, Sheffield Central, Labour
  15. Mohammad Yasin MP, Bedford, Labour