Sara Hurley, chief dental officer for England, writes to the dental profession

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.’


  1. 1

    Dear Sara Hurley,

    Happy 2016 to you and your team too.

    I completely agree Context is everything.

    Sadly that context is since 2006 the UDA imposed dental contract, it has been a disaster frankly.

    It seems the 2008 Health Select Committee agree with that sentiment too, but all we have had since is perpetual-pilots that simply show more time for appointments = better for patients and professionals BUT has a temporary reduction in access figures, therefore DH rejected it, as access = everything it seems, but ccess to what, a too busy professional?

    We do not blame you or Alistair Burt as you are both new in positions and you have inherited this continual idiocy, frankly.

    But now it’s time to DO and not issue more Spin – since the Telegraph letter only a few weeks ago, some 2000 more children have been admitted to hospital to have some 10,000+ rotten teeth out, when it’s almost 100% preventable!!!

    What is needed is ACTION now, preferably today, or tomorrow maybe, but not dragging it out over another year or more in talking shops alone!

    1. Dental teams URGENTLY need the support of a National Media campaign to inform and educate everyone about prevention and self-help. It worked well for the Fire service, it can work cost-effectively for Dentistry too.

    2. The food industry needs to be addressed assertively for sugar-loading foods that are savoury or even marketed as ‘healthy’ – by law, public exposure, labelling and other ways!

    3. The unfit ‘UDA system’ needs to become far more ‘patient-centred’ and there’s only one way to do this, with ‘protected-time’ for dedicated professionals to do their job well, not chasing silly-high UDA targets or being penalised for spending more time seeing high-needs or anxious patients etc.

    4. Action is needed to protect the vulnerable, otherwise why go upon all those child protection courses and vulnerable adult courses if they are getting avoidably hospitalised or need Charity care because the unfit system is helpless in it’s current shackles?

    I know it’s not easy – I hope further public exposure will give you the leverage you need to influence those above you who have the power to DO things now.

    Ironically more dental prevention will save the nhs money and the knock-on costs to the rest of the service too, which is clearly not being taken into account either, so you would be helping wider government aims, though I appreciate nobody thanks one for rocking the boat to get things done.

    I hope you can actually DO what needs to be done, to protect vulnerable children + vulnerable adults and let’s not forget, demoralised and vulnerable dental professionals too!

    Yours synergistically,


  2. 2

    Hello Dr Hurley,
    Yesterday, 27 February 2016, I read an article in “BBC, Health, Tooth decay still on the rise among English children” and not only totally agree with your comments; “figures as disappointing”, “tooth decay- a highly preventable disease”, “if you get serious about tackling this then prevention is the key”, “We are radically changing NHS dentistry, so that dentists will be paid for keeping the nations’ teeth healthy, rather than just for treating problems as they arise’,

    I am pleased to be able to offer you the information that will dramatically reduce the incidence of, not only all common oral diseases in children and in adults, but also common adult diseases attributed to gingivitis in adults; heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia and diabetes..

    On Monday 7th September 2015 I received an email from The Editor in Chief, BDJ advising me that an article I had submitted had been accepted for publication and would be published in the BDJ in due course. The article, he said, would also be published online. The title of the article is “Whole Mouth Health. ‘Picture- Perfect’ Prevention”. I am eagerly awaiting it’s publication and strongly believe my oral hygiene instruction ‘Paint Your Mouth’ will dramatically eliminate common oral diseases, and also believe my oral health education books, eBooks and videos are ideal oral health education materials for all ages. .

    Dr Hurley, I was an NHS dentist in England from 1958 until 1980 when I returned to Australia with my wife and 3 English born children. I retired from dentistry at age 60 in December 1991. Retirement ended in 1996 when my granddaughter was diagnosed with early tooth decay in an upper 51. I was angry with myself and decided to return to dental practice as a Government dentist to research for a mission, “Prevent Oral Diseases in Children”.

    Today is 28 February, Sunday and I strongly feel my patience, perseverance and persistence is about to be rewarded. I look forward to your reply

    Kindest regards,


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