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New accreditation process for Dentists with Enhanced Skills (DES)

Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) are pleased to inform you that a new accreditation process is now in place for Dentists with Enhanced Skills (DES). This is great news all round.

The dental industry has seen much turmoil in recent years, particularly within the NHS. The Covid 19 pandemic saw a strategic change, and movement of funding, so appointments were optimised to favour emergency dental work. In order to meet the demand for urgent treatment, the annual funding for NHS dental check-ups was halved. Rather than providing for two check-ups per year for each patient, the decision was made to reduce this to one appointment.  

However, this new DES accreditation process is set to appeal to suitably qualified dentists and prove an attractive prospect for retaining dentists in NHS Wales.

This will appeal to dentists interested in picking up additional skills by taking on extra courses and learning from experienced colleagues in their spare time.

Dental work has varying levels of complexity and skill. This new scheme will see dentists earn Level 2 accreditation, previously known as dentists with special interest (DwSI).

This in turn means that DES accredited dentists will now be able to claim extra pay for their more complex work.

What’s more, it provides a much more flexible and potential quicker career pathway. Full time dentist training routes can take up to 5 years to complete. However, under the new DES route to accreditation, dentists can work towards Level 2 dental work at their own pace.

Once this accreditation is achieved, DES dentists will have a qualification that is transferable anywhere in Wales.

This new process also has multiple benefits for local health boards, and ultimately patients as well.

Local health boards will have a list of Level 2 accredited dentists to whom they can refer patients to with confidence. Moreover, this moves Level 2 dentistry work out of hospitals and into primary care. This ultimately means there’ll be more beds free for the patients who need it the most.

As for the patients, they get the convenience of having their treatment within their local community, closer to home.

This could even mean a reduction in waiting time, which would be welcomed by the whole community.

Kirstie Moon, the Postgraduate Dental Dean of HEIW, can be quoted as saying:

“We’re delighted to tell you about our Dentists with Enhanced Skills scheme we’ve set up for Wales…This means that they can attract contracts at Level 2 in a particular speciality…Very exciting, enables career pathways and some additional development. Really exciting and I’m thrilled to be able to share this with you.”

Similarly, Rhian Jones, the Specialist Oral Surgeon DES (OS) Panel Chair had this to say:

“The development of this role will be hugely beneficial to dentists, patients, and to the oral surgery service in Wales. For dentists it provides the opportunity to expand their clinical skills and take on a more varied caseload within their own level of expertise and skill set. Patients will benefit as appropriate cases will mean they can undergo treatment closer to their own home and will have a shorter waiting time, and finally the Oral Surgery Specialist Service will benefit as appropriate cases can be seen by someone who’s suitably accredited and trained to carry out Level 2 procedures and this will reduce the caseload being referred into the Oral Surgery Specialist Service, and thereby reducing waiting times. So, I feel the development of the Oral Surgery DES pathway is hugely beneficial and exciting, and I look forward to seeing it come to fruition.”

A recent applicant has said of the scheme:

“As someone just starting out in their career, this work to develop Level 2 oral surgery services is exciting and it gives dentists like me who enjoy oral surgery an alternative career option to work towards. It's great that I can put the skills and treatment numbers that I've built up during my DCT years to good use, as they will count towards getting signed off as a DES (Dentist with Enhanced Skills). 

I think it is going to be a positive step for the patients too, as it will help to cut down the secondary care service waiting lists so the patients who really need to see a specialist can be treated faster.”

DES accreditation is open to dentists with skills in Oral Surgery already.

Soon, there will also be a similar pathway will be opening soon for dentists with skills in Paediatric dentistry. HEIW will request expressions of interest in this Paediatric dentistry accreditation in January and February 2024.

It is also hoped that other dental specialities may soon follow.

What’s more, there’s also speculation that DES accreditation will eventually become transferable in England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland as well.

Until then, please keep an eye out for the success stories that are sure to come.

If you, or someone you know, would be interested in applying for DES accreditation, applications are open until 24 September 2023. Simply head over to the HEIW DES Webpage to find out more.


Published 17 August 2023