Aberdeen Dental School faces call for closure
Pressure has been ramped up on the troubled Aberdeen Dental School after one of Scotland’s most respected dentists called for its closure.
The flagship health initiative by former SNP leader Alex Salmond, has been rocked by a damning GDC inspection, the third in three years.
It highlighted patient injuries, high fail rates, poor management and stressed students complaining to the university about the standard of their education. Now, John Drummond, a former president of the BDA, has called for it to be closed.
While it will not solve the employment crisis we face, it will at least help if the Aberdeen school is closed
Writing in the BDJ, Drummond said: “In Scotland, we are over producing dentists significantly. Opening a dental school in Aberdeen has simply compounded the problem.
“It is time to face the reality that the new school was conceived politically and is protected politically.”
He goes on to say that with a target of just 20 graduates a year – which Scottish Dental magazine has learned has never been reached – the school has never been a success and has “sucked” human and financial resource from the Glasgow and Dundee schools.
“While it will not solve the employment crises we face, it will at least help if the Aberdeen school is closed.
“How much longer must we pretend that all three schools can continue? Further cuts to Dundee and Glasgow will simply weaken further two excellent schools. It is time to pull the plug on Aberdeen,” he said.
Now, an investigation by Scottish Dental magazine, published in this issue, has revealed the depth of the problems that exist, and have existed for several years, in Aberdeen. They include allegations that staff were, in the past, asked to give false information to GDC inspectors, were bullied and had careers threatened, and that students were so pressurised that they had to seek medical help.
However, Chief Dental Officer for Scotland, Margie Taylor, has mounted a staunch defence of the school and has urged the profession to accept that everything possible is being done to correct the situation in Aberdeen and to look to the future.
Ms Taylor said that she had read all the GDC reports into Aberdeen and was fully aware of the criticisms that they contained. However, she said that it was important to remember that the regulator had given the school “sufficiency” status and therefore had been satisfied that it was on course to recover from its difficulties.
She pointed to the severe problems the school had faced in recruiting high-quality teaching staff prepared to work and live in Aberdeen and to the shortage of patients that had been available for students to train with.
However, she revealed that there has been “considerable interest” in the post of director that is being advertised at present along with the positions of four of the most senior teaching staff at the school, a fact that critics say gives an indication of the depths of the problems facing Aberdeen.
Ms Taylor added: “I think that what we have to do is to learn from this and look to the future. We have to make sure that we have dental schools in Scotland that are meeting the GDC standards.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Aberdeen Dental School was opened to address the shortage of dentists, particularly in remote and rural areas of Scotland.
“Student numbers are reviewed on a regular basis according to need, taking into account the total numbers of dentists, regional priorities and changing levels of oral health.”
A spokeswoman for Aberdeen University said 84 per cent of graduates over the past three years have stayed in Scotland for vocational training with the majority moving into full-time work in Scotland.
She added: “We are delighted that we have graduates successfully working in local general practices in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Highland, and one of our first graduates has just been appointed to a specialty training position in restorative dentistry here at the Aberdeen Dental Hospital – beating off national competition to gain this sought-after post.”