COVID-19 and students starting BDS programme in 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in governments across the world imposing a variety of restrictions to combat the spread of the causative virus, SARS-CoV-2. These restrictions are essential public health measures to protect the population, but some of them have impacted adversely on the delivery of dental care. For example, the need for social distancing, enhanced Personal Protective Equipment and decontamination procedures reduce significantly the number of patients who can attend dental practices for treatment each day.
A further challenge is the fact that many of the treatments delivered by dentists require use of equipment that produces aerosols, e.g. dental high-speed drills. Since aerosols are believed to be one of the mechanisms by which SARS-CoV-2 spreads from person to person, extensive new infection control measures are currently required to ensure that patients, staff and students remain safe during dental treatment procedures. These measures also dramatically reduce the number of patients who can be treated each day.
Students who are training to be dentists undertake a large volume of clinical treatment for patients in NHS facilities as an integral component of their University courses. The extent to which COVID-19 restrictions will reduce the clinical training opportunities for students during the 2020/2021 academic year is heavily dependent on the future course of the pandemic, which is itself uncertain. However, until a vaccine is developed or new treatments are discovered, at least some of the precautions currently in place to prevent onward transmission of the virus will remain necessary, in order to prevent new spikes of infection. This suggests that the ongoing challenges in delivery of dental care across the profession will continue for some time, with contingent impact on the education and training of dental health care professionals.
The BDS course is subject to the stringent requirements of our professional regulator, the General Dental Council, to allow those who have completed the degree programmes to join the professional register and practise legally in the UK. The reduction in access to clinical care facilities is likely to impact significantly on the ability of our existing senior students to gain the necessary skills and competencies for successful course completion and registration.
We are working with the NHS to implement mitigation procedures that will allow clinical work to resume, but much will depend on how the pandemic progresses over the next year and the effectiveness of the procedures that we can put in place. However, there is a possibility that in the worst-case scenario it may not be possible for students to gain the appropriate amount of clinical experience in the normal time-frame and we may be required to introduce an extra year of studentship into the BDS degree course to allow our existing students to achieve the clinical competencies required before progressing. If that becomes necessary, then we will need to defer entry of those selected to join the course in 2021 until 2022, since dental training facilities do not have the physical capacity to accommodate double years of students.
Please be assured that we will do everything we can over the coming months to support all students to progress within the normal time-frame. However, we believe that it is very important, in the spirit of transparency, that you are aware of the potential impact of COVID-19 on dental training programmes whilst the special measures required to suppress SARS-CoV-2 transmission are in place.
COVID-19 and 2020/21 students
BDS student communications about potential COVID-19 impact on 2020/21 academic session:
General information for prospective students
The safety of our University community is our priority, in all that we do and we have been trying to provide as much information as we can about how we are adapting to these difficult circumstances.
Following the cancellation of this summer’s exam season in the UK and internationally, we fully appreciate the concerns of all prospective UofG dental students and their families surrounding the award of qualification grades for this year and the impact on applications.
Whilst we anticipate that relevant adjustments will be made by awarding bodies/exam boards, the precise mechanisms for doing this are not yet agreed. We will monitor any updates received from government departments and contribute to the discussions between the various awarding bodies, schools, other universities and partner organisations so that we can do our utmost to ensure that no prospective student is disadvantaged.
In the meantime you may wish to view the FAQs for offer holders and prospective students.
Please take care of yourselves, your families and those around you.
We look forward to welcoming you as part of our new intake of students to the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing for 2020.