Sara Hurley Pop small
Chief dental officer Sara Hurley has responded to the ‘interest’ in comments made at the NHS Expo event

Sara Hurley has responded to criticisms of her comments at the NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo regarding patient recall intervals, stating that the issue has been ‘brought to the public’s attention’.

At the event, the chief dental officer for NHS England called for ‘bespoke’ rather than ‘one size fits all’ dental care for patients.

‘You [patients] should get a bespoke piece of advice based on your lifestyle, your experience of disease, and your dentists might say, “you know, I only need to see you every 24 months”‘, Dr Hurley was quoted by The Telegraph as saying.

More controversially, Dr Hurley asked: ‘If you go to have your car MOT, and he says, “come back in six months”, do you blindly adhere to that advice?’

Chair of the British Dental Association’s (BDA’s) Principal Executive Committee, Mick Armstrong, said of the latter comments: ‘The CDO for England’s comparison of dental professionals with car mechanics was ill-judged and inappropriate’.

The CDO’s response

In response to the negative reaction from the BDA and national media outlets, Dr Hurley said: ‘I welcome the interest in my comments at Expo that have again brought to the public’s attention the NICE guidance on dental recall that has been seen as best practice since its publication in 2004.  

‘We have the evidence that in terms of recall times “one size no longer fits all” for the current oral health needs of the 21st century population.

‘My aspiration is to challenge the outdated patient expectation with regards to six-month recalls for check ups, so that when dentists offer a bespoke recall or extended recall it is not seen as unusual.  

My aspiration is to challenge the outdated patient expectation with regards to six-month recalls for check ups

‘As oral health improves and patients become more confident in their self care it is a reasonable expectation for both the dentist and the patient to review and agree an increase in the interval between recalls up to a maximum of 24 months.

‘When agreeing a recall interval patients are encouraged to talk with the dental team about their oral health, to understand what their level of risk is, what they can do to reduce any risks and secure their oral health.

‘This dynamic between clinician and patient in addressing their oral health needs should not be seen as unusual.

‘If a patient is asked to return every six months, there may be ongoing issues, these should be discussed.

‘It is important that patients follow the treatment plan and recall interval they have agreed with their dentist.’

The CDO concluded: ‘Whilst in some cases, it will be necessary for regular six-monthly appointments, patients who are sustaining good oral health may be offered a recall at a range of intervals up to 24 months.’