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Necessary knowledge of English language for dental professionals​

We are committed to ensuring that only dental professionals who demonstrate the necessary knowledge of the English language are able to treat patients in the UK.

In collaboration with other healthcare regulators we worked with the Department of Health to amend the legislation that governs what we do - the Dentists Act 1984 – and to introduce new powers to assess English language proficiency. The powers came into force in April 2016.

Full details of our requirements are set out in our guidance here – see note below. 

Note: This guidance is currently under review because of the UK’s departure from the EU. For accurate information on when we will request evidence or information to determine whether you have the necessary knowledge of English:

  • EEA non-Swiss applicants must refer to paragraphs to 15-17 of this guidance.
  • Swiss applicants must refer to paragraphs 10-14 of this guidance.

Who does this apply to?

These powers allow the GDC to assess the English language proficiency of any dentist or dental care professional (DCP) before they can practise in the UK.

Dentists and dental care professionals who apply to return to the GDC register will, also have their proficiency in English language considered.

These powers reflect the requirement in our Standards for dental professionals to:

"be sufficiently fluent in written and spoken English to communicate effectively with patients, their relatives, the dental team and other healthcare professionals in the United Kingdom."

Applicants holding overseas qualifications

Dental professionals who qualified outside the UK must demonstrate they have the necessary knowledge of English as part of the assessment of their qualifications, knowledge and skills.

The process for demonstrating English language proficiency varies according to the circumstances of applicants.

If we are satisfied about an applicant's knowledge of English from their initial application we will not request further evidence. Dental professionals qualifying in a country where English is the first language will not routinely need to provide additional evidence about their knowledge of English.

If the evidence provided does not meet our requirements, applicants will be required to undertake an English language proficiency test.

Full details of our requirements are set out in our guidance here – see note below.

Note: This guidance is currently under review because of the UK’s departure from the EU. For accurate information on when we will request evidence or information to determine whether you have the necessary knowledge of English:

  • EEA non-Swiss applicants must refer to paragraphs to 15-17 of this guidance.
  • Swiss applicants must refer to paragraphs 10-14 of this guidance.

 

Types of evidence we are likely to accept

Examples of the types of evidence we will routinely accept to demonstrate applicants have the necessary knowledge of English, are:

  • A recent primary dental qualification that has been taught and examined entirely in English
  • A recent pass in a language test for registration with a regulatory authority in a country where the first language is English
  • Recent and continuous experience of practising in a country where the first language is English
  • A pass in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam that meets the requirements set out in our guidance.

Structured reference to assess knowledge of English

To enable us to effectively assess English language skills, a reference can be provided using this form.

The completed form will confirm that at least 75% of the applicant’s day-to-day interaction with patients, carers, their families and other healthcare professionals in the referee's employment or under their supervision has been in English.

Examples must be provided to illustrate how each of the four skills of speaking, listening, writing and reading have been demonstrated or this form will not be accepted.

Other evidence

There are many ways in which an applicant may be able to satisfy us that they have the necessary knowledge of English for registration. If evidence other than those we have listed is provided they must meet the criteria we have set out i.e. the evidence must be robust, recent and readily verifiable by the GDC.