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Queen’s dentistry school could lose its teaching status

By Lisa Smyth

Northern Ireland’s only school of dentistry at Queen’s University in Belfast is at the centre of an official probe over concerns about the level of resources and quality of teaching, it can be revealed.

The university is at risk of losing the accreditation it requires from the General Dental Council (GDC) to allow it to teach dental students.

It comes as Queen’s is having to make £11m in efficiency savings and absorb 200 job losses.

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal the GDC’s chief executive and registrar, Evlynne Gilvarry, has written to the vice chancellor at Queen’s following concerns about the level of resources being dedicated to teaching dentistry.

The GDC, which quality assures the education of dentists across the UK, subsequently carried out an inspection and is due to publish its report within months.

The results of the inspection are not yet known, but it has called into question the standards of teaching on the Queen’s dental course — which was named the top course in the UK just three years ago by the Times Good University Guide.

At the time, Professor Paddy Johnston, Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen's, said: “This is a wonderful achievement by my dental colleagues, especially as we drive towards the development of an international research-led dental school in the next few years.”

Jim Wells, deputy chair of the Stormont health committee, said he was disappointed to learn about the inspection.

“We don’t know what the findings of the inspection will be but it is extremely worrying that professionals felt the need to raise concerns in the first place,” he added.

“This is a blow for the uni-|versity and hopefully will not result in the closure of the dental |school, which would be an absolute disaster.”

A spokesman from Queen’s said: “We can confirm that the GDC undertook an inspection as is normal every four or five years. We are awaiting the report.”

However, a GDC spokeswoman said: “From time to time the GDC is contacted by dental professionals who are concerned patient safety may be at risk. It is usual for the GDC to write to the university or education provider in question for further information and a response.

“The GDC’s chief executive and registrar, Evlynne Gilvarry, has written to the vice chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast following concerns about the level of resources being dedicated to teaching dentistry. An inspection was carried out earlier this month and a report from the inspectors will be available in due course.”

This is the latest blow to hit the school of dentistry which was dragged into the spotlight earlier this year when the work of one of the consultants teaching there was called into question.

The General Medical Council and GDC are both reviewing the work of Professor Philip Lamey — one of the UK’s top dentists — after concerns were raised over patients treated by him.

The Belfast Health & Social Care Trust came under fire for its handling of the health scare after it emerged it waited 13 months before recalling patients it believed may be at risk.

Background

The General Dental Council has a statutory duty to quality assure all courses and awards which lead to registration as a dentist or dental care professional in the UK. This quality assurance is in place to protect patients by making sure that these courses and awards are robust enough that only those who are fit to practise pass. If it has concerns about the course, the body’s inspection team can make recommendations, sanction further inspections or even withdraw accreditation.

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