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DFT recruitment 2013

DFT recruitment process (England, Wales, Northern Ireland)

You should receive information about the DFT system at the beginning of your final year; information about the application process may also be provided just before your university summer break, as the application process starts as soon as you return to dental school in the autumn, and possibly while you are still on holiday. The information is provided by your dental school with involvement from the postgraduate dental deanery. There may be information packs and/or a presentation to explain the system.  You can also find details on regional DFT schemes by visiting the postgraduate deanery websites, details of which can be found on the COPDEND website, 

Centralised recruitment process

Recruitment to DFT places is organised through a central recruitment process. In 2013, applications will open in late August, with interviews planned for late November. This process will allocate individuals to a particular DFT scheme. Allocation to a particular practice will then take place in the spring and is organised at regional level.

There are a number of important issues to bear in mind with regard to recruitment into DFT.

  • All UK dental graduates must undertake DF1 in order to work in NHS general dental practice. At the same time, the hospital system is linked to the DF1 process, so that most hospital positions are now likely to be subject to successful completion of DFT as well. While it is possible to start working in private dental practice straight after graduation (once GDC registration has been completed), DFT is the best possible basis for a successful career in UK general dental practice.

  • The DFT application process is competitive. While the number of DF1 training places is generally linked to the number of final year students, places cannot be ringfenced for UK graduates. Other candidates are eligible to apply, for example recent EU graduates and some overseas dentists who have passed the GDC’s registration exams. Therefore, the number of applicants is likely to be higher than the number of available places. UK final year students must therefore ensure that they attend briefing sessions provided by their dental school, the postgraduate deaneries and/or the BDA to ensure they are well-prepared for the process.

  • COPDEND is the organisation in charge of the process, while the London Deanery is contracted to run the application and assessment system for them. Information about the process, the deadlines and the requirements both for the application and the interview will be available from their websites. You must make sure that you read all the information provided before you apply. When you send in your application form, you formally confirm that you have read and understood the information provided, so if anything is not clear make sure you take advice before you finalise your form. There is no possibility to make changes to your form once you have sent it.

  • DFT places are available in March and September each year in England. The start date was recently changed, and at the moment it is not clear whether places in Northern Ireland and Wales will also move to a September start date or remain in August. You can only start DFT after your graduation. So, as final year students applying in August 2013, you can only apply to schemes starting in autumn 2014. Individuals who have full GDC registration already or will obtain it by January 2014 can also apply for schemes commencing in March 2014. 

Applications to DFT 

Online application system

The application process is run through an online system at the London Deanery. An online application form must be filled in and sent off by a deadline. Late applications are not accepted, so it is incredibly important that you complete the form by the set date, which, in 2013, is going to be in late September; the exact date is yet to be published.

Before making your application, make sure that you read the person specification and the guidance notes for applicants in detail. These will be provided on the London Deanery website at the online portal.

Choosing where to work

As part of the application process, you are asked to express preferences for the dental foundation schemes around the country. This year, you will be asked to submit these preferences not as part of the intitial application, but slightly later and once you have been accepted into the process. Note that this part of the process is about allocating applicants to schemes, not individual practices. Take some time to research the schemes, so that you know where they are. Training practices are not usually approved until spring, but the previous year’s information might still be useful (availability of the information will vary).  Make sure you read the information provided by the London Deanery, and also check all deanery websites.

Given that it is a highly competitive process, our advice is to be extremely flexible in your approach. Ideally, to maximise your chance of a place, you need to be willing to spend this training year in any of the regions covered by the process. Therefore, rate as many as possible - preferably all - of the available schemes, (with the exception of the March schemes, for which you will not be eligible as a final year student). If you do not rate a scheme, you will not be offered a place in it if one is available. If you do not receive a place in the first round, it will not be possible in the second round (clearing) to change your mind about the places you excluded. In short, if you do not rate a scheme, you will not be considered for a place in it under any circumstances.  However, at the same time, do not rate schemes in which you are completely unwilling to train. This is because, if you are then offered a place where you are not willing to go, you will refuse it, and you will not be offered another place thereafter.

Take note of the deadline

After the deadline for applications has passed, you will be sent an invitation to interview/assessment. You will be required to reconfirm this date – make sure you do so by the given deadline or you will lose your interview place and will therefore be out of the system and not be considered for a place in 2014.


Interviews, now increasingly called assessments by the organisers, are scheduled to take place in late November. These will take place at six centres across the UK and students are usually allocated to the centre closest to their dental school. Details of the paperwork you must bring with you to the interview will be provided in the information literature.

The assessment process consists of a station considering scenarios relating to professionalism and management/leadership skills, a communications station with role play, and a situational judgement test (SJT). Although these stations are not intended to test clinical knowledge, they will be pitched at a level deemed appropriate for final year students.

The interviews will result in each applicant receiving a score, placing them in a ranking system. Places are then allocated in accordance with this ranking and the preferences for schemes expressed in the application form (ie the top-ranked person will get their first choice and so on).

Situational Judgement Test (SJT)

The SJT was piloted in 2012 and it has been agreed to include it in the system. The SJT is a scenario-based multiple choice test, with questions specifically relevant to dentistry. It is expected that there will be 50 questions, and that the test will take 90 minutes. 

Dates for 2013/14

It is expected that applications to DFT schemes for 2014 will open in late August and close in late September.

Interview centres are Belfast, Bristol, Leeds, London, North West and West Midlands; dates are expected to be published soon and will be in mid to late November.

Candidates are allocated to a centre, usually near their dental school. No travel expenses will be paid for attendance.

Please make sure that you check the information on the COPDEND (  and London Deanery ( websites for confirmation of the application period and interview dates.

Allocation of places

Offers for March and September 2014 schemes will not be made until January 2014. The offers will be made by email and you will be required to reconfirm acceptance of the place within a short space of time, so it is very important that you keep an eye on your emails. The expected timing of the email offer will be published by COPDEND.

Allocation at local level

Once all schemes have been filled, the names of the successful applicants are given to each regional deanery. The deaneries have their own procedures for allocating students to individual practices. Many hold job shops where you can meet the trainers and practice teams, and express preferences. Others may just allocate you directly to a practice in their patch. Some may require your CV as part of this process. Once you have been allocated a place, make sure you contact the practice well before your first day at work. Ideally, keep in touch with them at regular intervals throughout your final year.

Second round of allocations

The majority of UK graduates will find a DFT place in the first round of allocations, but due to the competitiveness of the process, some may not. A second round of allocations takes place after the last final exams have been sat and results announced (around June/July), and significant numbers of places do become available at this point. Some students will not take, or pass, their finals, whilst others may be unable to take up their place due to a change in circumstances.

In case of a serious shortage of places, the Department of Health (DH) usually seeks additional funding, but there is no guarantee that it will be provided for the full number of people on the waiting list – the BDA lobbies the DH intensively for appropriate funding of DFT places. There are no interim allocation rounds, so any candidate on the waiting list must wait until the final exams have been taken and the results confirmed.