Sara Hurley
Sara Hurley addresses the nation in a New Year’s message

Sara Hurley, chief dental officer for England, has written a New Year message to the dental profession.

‘A belated happy New Year – congratulations to Margie Taylor (CDO Scotland) for her CBE, Eric Rooney (deputy CDO England) and Jane Davis-Slowik (associate dental dean Health Education England and special care dentist, Wolverhampton NHS) both appointed MBE and Ashley Lupin from Canterbury Kent who receives the British Empire Medal for humanitarian services to medical training in Uganda – four worthy recipients whose endeavours bring credit to the profession,’ Sara says.

‘There are many others quietly delivering beyond public and professional expectation and I have challenged all the representative professional groups to provide citations for their unsung heroes for submission to the Honours and Awards board.’

Positive contribution

‘The positive recognition of our profession is a welcome recognition of the contribution dentists make,’ Sara continues.

‘However, not everyone in England is able to access the quality care our profession provides, which reinforces the necessity to focus our efforts on addressing health inequality.

‘As healthcare professionals, wherever we work, we are responsible to the population to ensure that care is available to all, with focus on those with the greatest need.

‘By working collaboratively with local professional networks we expect commissioners of dental care to seek out and offer more innovative and broader access options to meet the unmet need in their local communities.

‘In parallel with this we should welcome the steps being taken to improve the dental element of the NHS 111 system and develop better access to out of hours dental advice, integration with community pharmacy services and a securing of access to unscheduled care providers.’

Healthy choices

‘During 2013/2014, some 26,000 children were hospitalised for dental treatment, mainly for multiple dental extractions of decayed teeth,’ Sara says.

‘For the majority this decay was preventable.

‘The launch of Dentaid’s 2016 Sugar Smart campaign and Public Health England’s Change for Life campaign both aim to help families make sensible choices about sugary foods and are excellent examples of how the profession can engage with other partners.

‘They both show there is more for colleagues to do in the wider world of health and social care, underlining the importance of acting on these important oral health initiatives – rather than assuming “its only teeth – we’ll leave that to the dental profession”.

‘The profession has made clear that NHS England needs a more integrated approach to oral health and dental care, to secure better access to early intervention and prioritise prevention in early years, vulnerable groups and the elderly.

‘This means using dental budgets wisely and ensuring the funds allotted to local authorities for oral health initiatives demonstrate high value and achievable health outcomes.

‘This opportunity for re-design is the chief dental officers executive’s top priority for the year.

‘I know that the DCP community is eager, willing and committed to the prevention agenda and are pivotal to maintaining momentum in advancing good oral health and increasing access to services.

‘Context is everything and we cannot ignore the challenges we face.

‘It is going to be tough – I’m up for the challenge and I sense that you are too.’