GDC thematic review on preparedness for practice finds no safety concerns


The General Dental Council (GDC) has today published the findings from its first education quality assurance thematic review, which focused on the preparedness for practice of UK trained dental students at graduation. While finding areas where preparedness could be enhanced, the review found no evidence to suggest graduates are unsafe.

As part of an updated approach to its quality assurance of education and training, the regulator introduced thematic reviews, which are designed to examine broad cross-sector issues. The first such review, which also includes an independent rapid evidence assessment, focused on the subject of preparedness, following concerns raised by stakeholders in recent years.

Some key findings include:

  • both trainees and supervisors feel there should be more clinical experience at undergraduate level, although the review found there are barriers which prevent this from happening
  • there is no evidence to suggest graduates are unsafe
  • supervisors and trainees have different expectations when it comes to new dentists’ skills and abilities
  • there may not always be shared understanding around what a safe beginner looks like.

Head of Education Policy and Quality Assurance at the GDC, Ross Scales, said:

“While inspections remain an important part of how we assure the quality of education and training for individual programmes, thematic reviews provide a new and useful tool, enabling us to more effectively look at wider issues. This review provides valuable, evidence-based insights into a critical issue.

“A shared understanding of what we mean by ‘safe beginner’ is clearly very important and we will be looking at how we can better define this to ensure a common view. The findings around the amount of undergraduate experience, particularly for complex skills development and the use of ‘real world’ settings, are equally valuable and I look forward to working with our partners in education to explore how changes could be made to improve the preparedness of new dentists.”

To read the full report, as well as the rapid evidence review, visit

For further information please contact the GDC press office at or call 07809 657 920.

Notes to Editor

  • This review relates to the period before the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK and as such does not consider how the pandemic, and the restrictions in place to suppress the spread, may affect the preparedness for practice for those currently studying.
  • This thematic review includes independent research, commissioned from the Association for Dental Education in Europe, in the form of a rapid evidence assessment (REA). The REA was conducted between July 2019 and March 2020, and included a review of 89 publications on the topic of ‘preparedness for practice’ from across the UK and internationally, and interviews with research area experts.
  • The General Dental Council (GDC) is the UK-wide statutory regulator of just over 113,000 members of the dental team, including approximately 42,000 dentists and 70,000 dental care professionals. Our primary purpose is to protect patient safety and maintain public confidence in dental services. To achieve this, we register qualified dental professionals, set standards of dental practice, investigate complaints about dental professionals' fitness to practise, and work to ensure the quality of dental education. The Dentists Act 1984 provides the legislative framework for our work. For more information visit
  • The GDC’s 2020-2022 strategy: Right time, right place, Right touch details the regulators planned activity across five strategic aims and the introduction of registration application fees was explored in the strategy’s consultation. The approach is captured by strategy’s title; ‘Right time’, to illustrate the GDC’s continued focus on developing its approach to upstream regulation, ‘Right place’, to describe the continued work to support issues resolution by the correct organisation and to promote local complaint resolution wherever possible, and ‘Right-touch’, to highlight the regulator’s commitment to ensuring its enforcement activity is evidence-based and proportionate.


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