Dentists (Training Places)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 11:40 am, 8th March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive why the number of training places for new dentists will be reduced to 150 in 2007-08 from 151 in 2006-07. (S2O-12308)

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

The Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council automatically adjusts student recruitment figures on the basis of drop-out rates over the previous three years. We expect the number of people who complete the dental degree course to continue to rise. Discussions with the funding council on student recruitment in the next academic year are still continuing.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Twenty years ago, Scotland produced 159 dental graduates. The Executive expects 134 students to complete their studies next year. Therefore, the plan is to produce 25 fewer dental graduates.

People in the north east are still having to go on to a waiting list to get access to a national health service dental practice. Will the minister increase the number of funded training places to tackle the shortfall? When will he consult on the need for a new dental school to be located in Aberdeen, which he is committed to do under the partnership agreement?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

I am pleased to assure Mike Rumbles that although I am sure the figures he quoted are correct, they reflect the consequences of the Conservative Government's decision to close the dental school in Edinburgh some 10 or 11 years ago. That is why there has been a reduction in the number of people qualifying from our dental schools. I am delighted to reassure him that the number is now increasing and that we expect it to continue to increase. On current plans, in 2009, 2010 and 2011, we expect once again to be producing more than 150 dental graduates a year.

Mr Rumbles also asked about the consultation on the provision of a new dental school. As he will know from answers to previous oral questions, the dental outreach centre at Aberdeen has been up and running for a number of months. I have given a commitment to consult, about a year from now, on extending that dental outreach centre on the basis of the experience that it has gained over those 12 months. I am confident that ministers will carry forward that consultation in accord with the commitments that have already been given.