Full of hope for glory?

The Birthday Honours list last Saturday contained only one honour for a dental professional an MBE for Sue Greening.

In the words of her local paper she ‘played a key role in the strengthening of community dental services, and of those for disabled people, in Wales.’ She became a consultant in the new speciality of special care dentistry in 2009. She has also been BDA President.

But she was the only recipient. As one of my correspondents pointed out to me over the weekend, this was a ‘very thin round of Honours for dentistry'.

Speaking in the House of Commons in 1944 (Sir) Winston Churchill said: ‘The object of presenting medals, stars, and ribbons is to give pride and pleasure to those who have deserved them.’

Nearly 70 years later, is this still true? When I received my honour in 2002, there were certainly some who wondered what I had done to deserve it. Others thought they should have received one before me. So, how are recipients chosen?

The first lesson to be learned is that a ‘gong’ no longer automatically goes with the job.

Secondly, anyone can nominate anyone else. You simply go to the Cabinet Office website, download nomination papers, fill them up saying what a great guy your mate is and get at least two others who will support the nomination. Send it off and hope for the best.

They reward people for public service, which the Department of Health has always interpreted as NHS rather than private dentistry.

The Department has an Honours committee and this decides how the allocation for health should be divided up among the competing claims. Then on it goes to the Honours Committee at the Cabinet Office who decides who goes on the final list. Then six weeks before the day the proposed recipient is sent a letter from No 10 asking them to confirm they will accept it. Finally, twice a year the lists are announced.

That’s the system; is it fair? In a way, it never can be. There are too many who deserve an honour who will be disappointed. To return to Churchill’s speech, he said ‘All that is possible is to give the greatest satisfaction to the greatest number and to hurt the feelings of the fewest.’



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