The plans were high on the agenda at a recent visit by Barry Cockcroft, chief dental officer (CDO) for England, to Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.
The CDO visited Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry to see for himself the developments made by the dental team and students on the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) programme over recent years.
His visit included a tour of the Dental Education Facility (DEF) at Derriford, one of four training clinics in Devon and Cornwall where students, under the supervision of qualified dentists, treat NHS patients.
Since the BDS programme started in 2008, more than 13,500 people in the two counties now have access to NHS dental care where they may not have received it before through one of the DEFs.
As part of Barry Cockcroft’s visit were discussions about the planned BSC in Dental Hygiene and Therapy which, once formally approved, will take its first students in September 2014.
The course is planned to be a three-year degree programme where students will be integrated alongside dental students, simulating the way in which dentists and dental therapists and hygienists work together in clinical practice.
The clinical aspect of the programme will also take place in the DEFs.
One of the key players in the programme, Claire McIlwaine, lecturer in Oral Health who is herself a dental hygienist and therapist, said: 'The importance of the dental hygienist’s and therapist’s role within the team and the contribution to the delivery of high quality care is well-recognised here in Plymouth.
'The development of this programme will allow true interaction between dental and dental hygiene and therapy students, introducing the concept of team working at the early stages of training.
She added: 'This is a truly exciting opportunity and I am delighted to not only be involved in the development of the programme, but also to be part of a school that is committed to graduating a team of first-class clinicians who are fully prepared for a rapidly changing health care environment and the future challenges this will bring.'
Reflecting on his visit, Barry Cockcroft said: 'It was a real pleasure to visit Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, to see the superb facilities they have created and to meet students and staff. It was also good to meet with dental commissioners and explore how best use could be made of the new infrastructure that the University has created across Devon and Cornwall to improve services to patients.'
He added: 'It was also interesting to discuss with Professor Christopher Tredwin, head of the School of Dentistry, the plans they have to develop hygiene and therapy training at the school, particularly at a time when we are looking to develop greater use of skill mix within the delivery of preventive focused dental services.'
More information about the BSc in Dental Hygiene and Therapy is available by logging on at http://www1.plymouth.ac.uk/peninsula/Pages/default.aspx.