EU dentists who qualified overseas blocked from practising in UK

A letter from an East Anglia Bylines reader. There is a desperate shortage of dentists in the UK, and she is keen to practise, but there are hugely demoralising barriers in her way.

Renata Geisa with her son. Photo: Renata Geisa

I am a Brazilian dentist and have worked as such for over 30 years, specialising in orthodontics and implantodontics.

Because of my then-husband’s job, my family moved to Italy, and, through a long bureaucratic process, my family and I acquired Italian citizenship through his ancestry. I applied for the Italian overseas dental exams, and was studying for them when, just a couple of years after our big move, my husband – again – decided to move, this time to London. Perhaps erratic at the time, but life changing.

EU assessment requirements

Wanting to raise my son in a peaceful town with a good school, we decided to move to Eastbourne, in Sussex. I got in contact with the General Dental Council (GDC), which informed me that to be a dentist here in the UK as an Italian would be less complicated than as a Brazilian due to EU laws. This process would occur through a special assessment called the general assessment, under the provision of the Qualifications Directive 2006/36/EC for exempt persons. So I returned to Italy, I passed the Italian dental exams, and moved to Sardinia, where I worked for five consecutive years in my own dental practice, as it was a requirement in the British general assessment to have three and a half years of experience in Italy.

My son stayed in the UK during this time, where he graduated from Durham University with a degree in Natural Sciences and is currently studying for a PhD in Engineering at Cambridge University. After my divorce in Italy, all that’s left of my family is in the UK, and for this reason I returned, willing to continue my career as a European dentist in the UK.

Language assessment

The British assessment required either a band 7.0 in the IELTS exam as proof of language competence, or other alternative demonstrations of proficiency, such as a letter from my boss attesting my English. Since returning to the UK, I have worked for four years as a deputy manager in a residential care home for mild mental disorders. However, a letter from my boss was not considered valid, as the GDC claims that it is not sufficient for the environment of dentistry. Despite this, I sent them my results for writing, listening, speaking and reading via their website when I finished an NVQ3 in Social Care, which I acquired through my job, but the GDC still did not accept this.

Last year I was informed by my colleagues that the last day to apply for this British assessment would be 31 December, and that, even if I passed the IELTS, I would not have enough time to get some requisite short-expiry documents (the good standing and compliance certificates) sent from the Italian Health Ministry and translated.

I begged the GDC for more time, I humiliated myself to a point of telling them on the phone that my small family is all that I have left for me. I work as a key worker, during the pandemic, putting in an average of 300 hours a month, supporting my son, with only the hope of being part of their group as a fully registered dentist. I was told this was not their decision, but the decision signed by Mr Boris Johnson.

Finally, I passed the IELTS exam, and I am now requesting the two certificates from Italy (MIUR). But I have already been told that the most I can achieve here is to be a dental therapist, if I fulfil all their requisites. I was encouraged by my son to move to Ireland or Switzerland, EEA nations that will accept me and where I can start work tomorrow, but how dreadful it would be to know that my son is here. To be separated from him once again!

A dream that would meet a real need

My dream here in the UK, after all these years working with vulnerable individuals and bearing witness to how bad their oral health condition can be, is to have a mobile dental practice in a van and work as a third party in collaboration with the NHS, helping those for whom real treatment is not available, due to their rural location or lack of mobility not permitting them to attend a normal dental practice. I would also have special luggage with all the equipment necessary to tend to bed-bound patients. I believe this would really supplement the care that’s needed in this country and would benefit the most vulnerable greatly. Am I wrong to think that this is an Aldous Huxley dream? That this too is a ‘Brave New World’?

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