GDC welcomes powers for dental hygienists and therapists to supply and administer medicines

26 June 2024

The General Dental Council (GDC) has welcomed a legislative change, effective June 26, 2024, that aims to improve direct access for patients to dental hygienists and therapists while promoting better use of the skill mix in the dental team.

The legislation will enable dental hygienists and therapists across the UK to legally supply and administer specific prescription-only medicines under an exemption mechanism without needing a dentist’s prescription, a patient-specific direction or a patient group direction.

While specified medicines can legally be supplied and administered under exemptions, the GDC expects dental hygienists and dental therapists to undertake the appropriate training to ensure they are competent to use this mechanism. There is no obligation for dental hygienists and therapists to administer and supply these medicines under exemptions, and many of them may wish to continue to rely on existing mechanisms in their work instead.

What this means for dental professionals

All dental hygienists and dental therapists, regardless of previous training, experience, and qualifications, should ensure that they are appropriately trained, competent and indemnified to supply and administer specific medicines under the exemptions mechanism. The GCD said professionals should ensure they have undertaken appropriate training before supplying and administering these medicines.

The importance of being trained

The council expects all dental hygienists and dental therapists to be able to demonstrate successful completion of a training course. This is crucial to ensure they have the required knowledge and skills to be able to work safely under this new mechanism.

The regulator said it strongly encourages hygienists and therapists to select a course that follows the training curriculum developed by the British Association of Dental Therapists (BADT) and the British Society of Dental Hygiene & Therapy (BSDHT).

NHS England and Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) are developing training courses.

Details on the timescale and how to access the training will follow from each of the four nations.

Supporting the change

Ross Scales, GDC head of upstream regulation, said, “We welcome this legislative change because it will bring improvements for dental patients across a number of settings. We thank colleagues at the professional associations and at NHS England for developing a curriculum outlining the knowledge and skills needed for dental hygienists and dental therapists to work to this mechanism. This curriculum also provides a basis for undergraduate training providers to build relevant training into their courses, so future generations of dental professionals can benefit too.”

Debbie Hemington, BADT president, said, “This is a change that will bring lasting benefits to not only the dental team, but the patients who they provide care to. It will make better use of the skills UK-based dental therapists hold, and will improve the efficiency of dental practices day-to-day.”

Miranda Steeples, BSDHT president, commented, “We are pleased to be working with BADT to make sure we encourage dental hygienists and therapists to take up the right training course, so that those who want to make use of this mechanism can do so confidently and competently.”