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Northern Ireland: Supporting our students

Blog Author Tristen Kelso

Blog Date 18/02/2021

​Tristen Kelso reflects on the efforts being made to support dental students at this difficult and uncertain time.

 

BDA Student committee 2019

Before the pandemic, BDA student members gather at Wimpole Street

 

It’s a tough time to be a dental student, and this week’s announcement that dental students in Scotland will have to repeat a year is a stark reminder of the difficulties training during a pandemic.

 

Closer to home, we know considerable efforts are being made to try to avoid such drastic extensions. The setting up of the Urgent Student Clinic (USC) at the School of Dentistry was one such initiative aimed at trying to get students the patient experience they need.

 

Financial support

“Dental students are not entitled to the £2,000 COVID recognition payments.”

News that dental students - and their medical and pharmacy peers - are not entitled to the £2,000 COVID recognition payments - has been extremely disappointing. This is particularly galling for those students who have continued to provide valuable care for patients in the dental hospital and in Beech Hall Dental Centre.

 

Alongside the British Medical Association, we have raised our objections to the Department of Health, who despite the misnomer in name, seem focused on using this payment to compensate a defined cohort for paid placements foregone.

 

While only small consolation, it has emerged that all students from the UK or EU currently enrolled on a full-time higher education course in Northern Ireland will receive a one-off £500 COVID Disruption Payment.

 

Earlier this month, Minister Dodds also announced a £10.4m student hardship fund for supporting higher education students facing hardship caused by COVID-19. We hope that this will go some way towards providing the support that dental students in Northern Ireland need and we will update you when we have more information.

 

Voicing your concerns

“Queen’s are looking at an August completion at earliest for fifth years, but this is by no means certain.”

At present, Queen’s are looking at an August completion at earliest for fifth years, but this is by no means certain, and may be subject to further extension. It is in this context that Peter Crooks, Vice-Chair of the BDA and myself, as Northern Ireland Director, met on Wednesday with Chris Irwin, Dean of the Dental School at Queen’s, to discuss student issues.

 

From our discussion, it’s clear that we have a shared interest in ensuring our dental students receive all the support they need to help them through this difficult time. We know that communications between dental school staff and students are open and regular. And, the Dental School is also actively working to put in place a package of support for students to help mitigate some of the impact of extensions.

 

In the meantime, I encourage students experiencing financial hardship to reach out to the BDA Benevolent Fund, who may be able to provide financial support to students unable to meet living expenses. You do not need to be a BDA member to apply for their support.

 

For our part, we at the BDA will continue to voice your concerns at the highest levels and provide what help we can to support the future of the dental profession.

 

Tristen Kelso

Tristen Kelso
BDA Northern Ireland Director