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Ranking your Dental Foundation Training schemes

Paul Blaylock, BDA Board member and Chair of the Students Committee, answers the most frequently asked questions on ranking your Dental Foundation Training (DFT) schemes.

Paul Blaylock
Paul Blaylock BDA Board member and Chair of the Students Committee

What are the main factors to consider?

Geography is a major driving factor, some students prefer to remain near dental school, while others want to move closer to friends and family. Some offer opportunities that better align with your dental interests, while others might offer a broader approach to primary dental care.

Consider whether you have special circumstances, including medical treatment requirements or caring responsibilities, or need to maintain a previous job. Some schemes allow you to pick which practice you will work in which can be incredibly valuable. The range of patients, procedures, and specialists within practices in a scheme should also be factored in. If you have a particular career interest, you may wish to choose a practice that caters to your specialisation. Where possible, I encourage students to contact previous FDs to determine which schemes are more suitable.

Should I rank schemes in areas I don't want to move to?

Most people pursue DFT to ensure a career in NHS primary dental care, either now or in the future. You need to decide if you are willing to move across the UK to manage your training. I suggest ranking as many schemes as possible, and, in case you are not assigned to your preferred scheme, there is the possibility to upgrade later. You might also want to take into consideration applying for Vocational Training (VT) in Scotland. For applicants in the rest of the UK, this is a separate process that works in parallel.

What are the different types of DFT schemes?

The first distinction is between one-year or two-year schemes. Two-year schemes are becoming more numerous and popular, because of their advantages. A major benefit is that you will not have to go through further recruitment to get into DCT1, which you would following a standard one-year scheme.

In two-year schemes you have an integrated experience at the start of your training, which will give you a great foundation. Although largely based in hospitals, there are quite a wide range of two-year schemes available, many focusing on oral & maxillofacial surgery or Community Dental Services (CDS), but there are also posts based in most dental specialties. Academic DFT posts are another option and are recruited through a separate process; you will need to benchmark in the normal DFT process to be ranked appointable and apply to the academic recruitment round.

What factors should I consider when ranking schemes?

I have already mentioned the importance of geography for many people.

For two-year schemes consider if you are happy to commit yourself for a prolonged amount of time to a practice, alongside a hospital or CDS setting. Alternatively, would you rather take a one-year DFT post and then decide to either undertake a second year in DCT, go into practice, or take another career route?

You should consider your future plans and aspirations. Every scheme provides a unique experience, so choose posts that closely align with your goals, and potentially with your future speciality where relevant. Speak to consultants, academics, supervisors from general dental practice at your dental school, and recent graduates, for direction toward the schemes that will be the most useful for you.

Are some schemes more competitive than others?

Schemes in urban areas, like London, and near certain dental schools are more competitive. Some two-year schemes offering unique training are also quite competitive, however, the competition ratios vary.

If some schemes are more competitive, should that affect how I rank schemes if my national recruitment number is not as high as I would like?

I strongly suggest ranking the schemes in the sequence that best reflects your preferences. If you perform well enough, you will be selected for your preferred ones, and if not, the allocation process will just go further down the list. Posts become available as people decide not to accept them or drop out, so you have a chance of getting upgraded.

You may perform better than expected in national recruitment and be allocated to your first choice. Consider how these schemes allocate practices, there might be an element of choice if you ranked quite well compared to your peers, which will also assure you the geographical choice within a scheme.

How do you find information on the practices in each scheme?

Information on each scheme is published as part of the national recruitment information on Oriel. This includes information on geography, the practices you might be assigned to, the hospital or CDS elements, and the length of the schemes. Some regions provide further information about current practices, so even though you cannot be assured that the same practices will participate each year, you will get a sense of what may be available in the future.

Once I am allocated to a scheme, how do I get selected?

It varies across the UK, in some regions you have the chance to attend an event where you meet the ES from each practice in the schemes you have been attached to. Afterwards, you can express a preference for each scheme and be allocated.

Depending on your national recruitment rank, some regions will give you more say in allocation, while others follow a more random process. All regions are encouraged to provide as much information as possible to help applicants via Oriel. For VT posts in Scotland, you will apply to and be interviewed by individual practices through a centrally managed process, making it a completely different approach.

Do all schemes have the same amount of study days?

Each scheme provides around 30 study days, with a mix of online and in person sessions following a topic guide. Oriel provides more information on how study days are structured, and some regions provide more hands-on or collective study days than others.

Are there any benefits to working in areas that struggle to recruit associates?

Practices struggling to recruit tend to be in more rural or remote areas, and circumstances mean that you are more likely to receive an offer to become an associate there at the end of DFT. You might also receive a more generous offer, a better UDA rate, the opportunity to be involved in interesting treatments, or better pay for the same volume of clinical work.