NECS works in partnership on flexible apprenticeships, creating a dental workforce for the future

Home 5 News 5 NECS works in partnership on flexible apprenticeships, creating a dental workforce for the future

Feb 9, 2023

NECS, Health Education England (HEE) North East and North Cumbria and New College Durham have worked collaboratively to deliver a brand new flexible apprenticeship scheme, welcoming a cohort of six apprentices onto the Oral Health Practitioner Apprenticeship programme in January 2023.

Created by the North East and North Cumbria (NENC) Integrated Care Board and NECS, the Flexible Apprenticeship Scheme (FAS) is specifically designed to support employers by directly employing and managing individuals who wish to undertake an apprenticeship. FAS, working with HEE and New College Durham, led on the recruitment of apprentices and hosts.

The apprenticeship provides an opportunity for dental nurses to develop skills in line with the General Dental Council full scope of practice to progress their careers, whilst helping to address local health inequalities in deprived groups by training dental nurses to carry out practice-based oral health interventions and wider community-based oral health promotion. Almost all of the apprentices are placed with their previous employers as hosts for the duration of the 16 month Apprenticeship Programme, offering the chance for existing staff to further develop their skills, knowledge and experience and for the practice to explore broadening services to patients.

Rachel Lish, Training Programme Director for Oral Health Improvement and Dental Care Professionals at HEE, said: “Dentistry is changing, with a greater focus on prevention and how good oral health links with good systemic health. With the vision to successfully build a dental workforce of the future, the approach to developing dental nurses needed to adapt, inspiring the ‘Oral Health Practitioner Apprenticeship.”

Vicky Adam, Programme Support Officer for Oral Health and Apprenticeships at HEE, added: “Looking to the future, it is envisaged that the oral health practitioner role should be embedded in a range of workplaces across the region, including GP practices, community pharmacies, residential care homes and early years settings. This apprenticeship is the next step in ensuring dentistry and oral health is integrated in all health, social care and education policies and practices to benefit communities across our region.”

New College Durham was approached by NECS and HEE North East and North Cumbria to provide the accredited learning for apprentices, due to its reputation with apprenticeships and its ability to deliver a diverse programme of learning, including classroom-based, virtual and multi-professional platforms.

Malcolm Smith, Postgraduate Dental Dean, praised the scheme and said: “The introduction of the Oral Health Practitioner apprenticeship is in line with the skills escalator model set out in the Advancing Dental Care Review Report, the recommendations of which are now being developed through Health Education England’s Dental Education Reform Programme (DERP). As well as enabling Dental Nurses to deliver more effective oral health advice to patients, the apprenticeship provides a route for this group to progress further in their career aspirations.

“In addition, the HEE North East Oral Health Practitioner apprenticeship model provides placement opportunities to work in general medical practices and community pharmacies to further embed the message of the importance of oral health in general health more broadly across the healthcare sector and to patients.”

Peter Phillipps, Senior Project Manager for FAS, said: “NECS is proud to be hosting the Flexible Apprenticeship Scheme on behalf of North East and North Cumbria ICB. We are working alongside the local health and care sectors to identify gaps in the workforce, to provide education, on-the-job experience and a step onto the ladder for future health and care professionals.”

Joanne Ward, Oral Health Practitioner apprentice, said: “I am extremely excited to begin this brand-new apprenticeship, working towards promotion of oral health in dental practice and community setting. I can use my knowledge, skills, and experience to give patients better understanding of the importance of oral health and how making small improvements can also benefit their general health in the long term. I am looking forward to working alongside dentists and doctors in the wider community.”