A Dental School in Bangor University

2. Questions to the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language – in the Senedd at on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of Siân Gwenllian Siân Gwenllian Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

4. What discussions has the Minister had with the Minister for Health and Social Services regarding establishing a dental school in Bangor University? OQ60677

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 2:52, 21 February 2024

(Translated)

I discuss a range of issues with the health Minister, including dentistry. Health Education and Improvement Wales are responsible for developing a workforce plan for dentistry and will continue to assess the available training opportunities, including whether an additional dental school is necessary.

Photo of Siân Gwenllian Siân Gwenllian Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

It's great to see the medical school at Bangor University going from strength to strength, with the first students to study the whole course in Bangor starting next September. The university is a crucial part of the economic and social make-up of the north-west of Wales, and there is no doubt that the establishment of a medical school does elevate the status of the university further. Speaking to the academic staff there, the establishment of a dental school is the next natural step on the journey to making Bangor a centre of excellence for health studies. Training dentists in the area would also help to improve the dental service available there and would attract more dentists to the area, and we've just been discussing how scarce dentists are in Wales. So, will you continue with those initial discussions on the establishment of a dental school at Bangor and work actively to make the case for that?

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 2:53, 21 February 2024

(Translated)

I thank Siân Gwenllian for that question. Bangor University does provide education in terms of dental care more broadly than dentists, and has done so very successfully, and, as she says, we're looking forward to seeing the first cohort of students starting on their journey in the medical school from September onwards. There are other exciting developments in north Wales, in terms of the dental academy under the auspices of the local health board. So, innovative developments are already happening in the region. I see benefits in having a dental school in Wales—a new one. I can't give any commitment in terms of the timing and location of that, but, certainly, that would be a positive development in due course.

Photo of Sam Rowlands Sam Rowlands Conservative 2:54, 21 February 2024

I'm grateful to Siân Gwenllian for raising this really important issue here this afternoon, because it is no exaggeration saying that there is a dentistry crisis in north Wales in particular. Indeed, just in Anglesey in recent weeks, a local practice there has told its 10,000 NHS dental patients that all routine check-ups are being stopped until further notice, which just gives an indication of the scale of the issue there. Minister, do you agree with me that training is a key way of finding a solution to this problem of dentistry at the moment? I certainly welcome the comments you made just now, indicating your support for a dental school somewhere up in north Wales, and, certainly, Bangor would make a lot of sense, with the existing work with the medical school there. So, I'd just like to know, Minister, what work you might be considering undertaking to ensure that quality teachers, facilities and investment would be attracted to a proposition like this, so that we can have this long-term strategy for dentistry in north Wales.

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 2:55, 21 February 2024

Well, I'm anxious not to stray into the portfolio responsibilities of the Minister for Heath and Social Services, but, clearly, the need to train more dentists and dental care professionals is something we are looking at very closely at the moment. We've already invested in Bangor University and the development of the all-Wales faculty of dental care professionals, and the first cohort of 12 students are now well into their second year of study, as Sam Rowlands will be aware. Just to be clear, I made no commitment, either, about the timing or the location of the dental school, I'm afraid to say, but I do think that a new dental school, at some point, would be a beneficial development. I would commend the work that is happening in the academy. I think that is a very exciting opportunity for training and for practise, as well.

Photo of Jane Dodds Jane Dodds Liberal Democrat 2:56, 21 February 2024

(Translated)

Thank you to Siân for raising this issue.

Photo of Jane Dodds Jane Dodds Liberal Democrat

You won't be surprised to hear that I'm going to echo the calls of both Sam and Siân to look at how we can develop dentist training places in north Wales. One of the angles that I'd like us to think about is the Welsh language and that, actually, we need to be the leaders, particularly in north Wales, in moving forward how we train our experts, particularly our dentists, in the Welsh language. The potential of having training places at Bangor does offer that. We know that an analysis of the Welsh dental workforce in 2012 found that 58 per cent of Welsh dental graduates who did their foundational training in Wales entered the local workforce. So, we know that there is a direct correlation between where they train and where they stay. And, for us here in Wales, and in north Wales in particular where we have a high number of Welsh speakers, particularly older people who only speak Welsh, it feels important that we do move that agenda on as quickly as possible. So, I would just like to echo those calls but hear from you, as well, your thoughts about how we do encourage our courses to be working towards people speaking Welsh and delivering treatments in Welsh as well. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 2:57, 21 February 2024

Well, being able to practise as a dentist or as a clinician of any sort through the medium of Welsh is really important from the point of view of the profession, but also, most importantly, from the point of view of the person receiving care, who is perfectly entitled to make whatever choice they wish in terms of the language in which they prefer to be cared for. We know that that is the reason behind the 'Mwy na geiriau' strategy that the health service has more broadly in this area. So, I absolutely recognise and agree with that. And the work that the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol does in order to make available options for people to study medicine and dentistry through the medium of Welsh is absolutely fantastic and a really positive development. I also agree with the point the Member made about making available more training and university places. We have, of course, done that both in medicine and in dentistry over recent years, very much with the point in mind that the Member makes that, by doing so, we hope very much to be able to retain people to practise here in Wales and, wherever possible, to do so, as she says, through the medium of Welsh.