BDA Conference feels the weight of Steele

The Steele report cast a long shadow over the British Dental Association’s Conference and Exhibition in Glasgow last week.

Taking place less than a month before Professor Jimmy Steele’s eagerly anticipated review into NHS dentistry is expected to be released, the atmosphere at the event was one of a profession holding its breath.

Susie Sanderson, chair of the BDA’s Executive Board, made it the focus of her opening address, urging the government to take the findings seriously and concentrate on the importance of oral health.


She was quick to express her optimism that the review would allow the voices of patients and dentists alike to be heard, and welcomed again the ‘ambitious, open and consultative’ nature of the investigation.


Speaking at the opening of the three-day conference, she urged the DoH to interpret the review’s recommendations ‘…in a way that allows the ingrained professionalism that we learn in dental schools, and that is willingly expressed in our everyday practice, not to be abused under the guise of achieving value for the public purse.’


Dr Sanderson praised the review team’s ‘…apparent insistence on independence and determination to deliver a really worthwhile report that properly addresses the very obvious problems in dentistry in England’, but warned that ‘…the extent to which the report’s findings are accepted and implemented by Government will demonstrate its true commitment to the process.’


The weight of expectation aside, the conference – held over 4 to 6 June at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow – made up for its somewhat muted beginning with a host of other sessions that addressed the clinical and business concerns of its 3,000 delegates.


A packed schedule saw lectures on aesthetic treatments sitting comfortably with practical discussions on dealing with PCTs and developing the dental practice.


A hard core of oral health sessions underpinned the event, made all the more relevant by the Scottish setting.


Fittingly enough, Scottish names topped the bill in many areas, a nod to both the city hosting the event and the quality of some of the dentistry on offer in the country. The Scottish CDO, Margie Taylor, also took the stage to offer a view from north of the border.


Dr John Drummond, a senior lecturer and consultant in restorative dentistry at the University of Dundee, was installed as the 123rd president of the BDA and was presented with his chain of office on the opening day.




Keynote speaker Charan Gill MBE (above) – entrepreneur and Glasgow’s ‘Curry King’ – did his part too, taking an engaging – if unorthodox – approach to his speech.


In a speech littered with self-deprecating jokes referenced to his poor Glaswegian roots – Charan led a double life as shipyard worker-by-day and waiter-by-night before making his millions as a restaurateur – the celebrity businessman hammered home the message that being an entrepreneur has recently been made ‘sexy’ by TV shows, Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice.


‘The human spirit is so strong that if you really want something, you’ll achieve it,’ he told a packed auditorium, aiming to inspire the many students and VTs in attendance.


He went on to suggest that the combination of ‘free spirit and a good education’ was the key to a successful business, along with the ‘knowledge of what’s going to propel you from here on in’.

The consensus among delegates was that the event’s lack of controversy was by no means a bad thing, leaving the focus far more on the practice of dentistry than in previous years.


The 2009 BDA Conference and Exhibition succeeded in neatly summing up the mood of the year so far for many dentists – the fact that all eyes are now on Professor Steele.



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