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The 'leaky' BAME pipeline in UK dentistry


Introduction There are growing calls for dentistry to debate, critique and analyse the role and place of racism in the profession. This article supports this debate and considers whether people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds experience barriers to progressing in the profession.

Aims To create a BAME 'pipeline' model illustrating how ethnicity shapes the composition of the dental profession in the UK.

Material and methods Publicly available datasets from UK higher education agencies and professional dental associations were identified, examined and collated to create a BAME pipeline model.

Results Registrants from the BAME category do not share similar experiences within the dental profession compared to white registrants. The experiences of British Asian people appear to be more favourable, vis-à-vis access to dental schools and progression to the General Dental Council register, compared to Black British people and other UK minority ethnic groups. Black British registrants experience blockages at all stages of their career progression, most notably when accessing dental schools, with only 2% commencing dental studies. All BAME groups 'leak' out of the dental pipeline at clinical academia. There are insufficient data to ascertain whether there are additional 'leaks' at the career specialisation stage.

Discussion and conclusion The UK BAME dental pipeline is a leaky one and is in need of urgent action and repair.

Key points

  • Recent political events have put the issue of the ethnic diversity of the UK dental profession back into the spotlight.

  • Research into the ethnic composition of dentistry in the UK is limited and in need of updating.

  • This article presents a 2019-2020 update on the ethnic composition of the dental profession in the UK and uses it to establish a model of the BAME pipeline for UK dentistry.

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An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Diversity in Dentistry Action Group introduction and stakeholder engagement event, hosted by the Office of the Chief Dental Officer for England, 25 November 2020.

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Correspondence to Patricia Neville.

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Neville, P. The 'leaky' BAME pipeline in UK dentistry. Br Dent J (2022).

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