Speaking at the keynote lecture of the NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo 2016, Dr Sara Hurley pleaded for NHS heads to ‘not talk dentistry’, instead urging: ‘Let’s talk oral health and putting the mouth back in the body.’
She argued that a ‘joined-up’ health service could make oral healthcare provision more effective and called for a holistic, united view of healthcare with multi-professional learning.
‘We need to share the burden of care,’ she said.
‘We need to change the mindset. GP practices need to be working with dental practices; building those partnerships is crucial. We need to galvanise all the healthcare professions.’
The comments at the Expo, an event designed to boost development within the health service, mark the first time that oral health has made the agenda at the policy planning event.
Alongside Dr Hurley’s appearance at the keynote and subsequent panel discussion, dentistry appeared on the agenda several times. The event saw the official unveiling of Smile4life, an initiative designed to lay solid foundations for good oral health.
However, the CDO’s appearance at the event has not been without controversy.
Dr Hurley was challenged on stage by former NHS Trust chairman Roy Lilley, who claimed: ‘The big problem in dentistry is access, but something could be done to change that in the 200 weeks offered by the NHS Five-Year Forward View.’
He added: ‘Dentistry has become a rich man’s hobby. It has gone off the high street into lavish surroundings.’
Mr Lilley’s comments added fuel to the fire stoked by the CDO’s calls for ‘bespoke’ dental care and for patients to be comfortable with varying intervals between check-ups. These have already provoked coverage in the national press, with The Telegraph running the headline ‘Dental checks “too frequent”’ on its front page.
The chair of the British Dental Association, Mick Armstrong, called Dr Hurley’s comments ‘ill-judged and inappropriate’.
Dr Hurley clarified her statements by saying that she hoped to ‘challenge the outdated patient expectation with regards six-month recalls for check-ups, so that when dentists offer a bespoke recall or extended recall it is not seen as unusual’.