Shaping Faculties for the whole dental team

It has long been a vision for the College to form distinct Faculties for the different professions within the dental team. Faculty Chairs, Louise Belfield, Bill Sharpling and John Stanfield, update us on the progress they have made so far.


Louise Belfield, Chair of the Faculty of Dental Nursing & Orthodontic Therapy

I am delighted to announce the formation of the inaugural board for the Faculty of Dental Nursing and Orthodontic Therapy.  Combined, Dental Nurses plus Orthodontic Therapists make up around 50% of the dental workforce, and it is our privilege to represent our registrant communities at the College of General Dentistry.

Our Board brings together a wealth of knowledge and expertise, along with a broad range of experience in general dental practice and beyond, including practice management, NHS and private practice, civilian and military, workforce, postgraduate education, academia, and research, as well as representation from the United Kingdom nations.

Our Board members are:

  • Louise Belfield (Chair and member of the College Council)
  • Debbie Reed (Vice-Chair)
  • Jane Dalgarno
  • Angie Heilmann
  • Amanda Knight
  • Katheryn Marshall
  • Sharon Morrow

All of our Board members are passionate volunteers, dedicated to the advancement of career opportunities, recognition of achievement, and parity of esteem for our Dental Nurses and Orthodontic Therapists.

Developing our new Faculty board presents some unique challenges, and with those come unique opportunities. Perhaps more than other registrant categories, Dental Nurse training is varied and diverse; there are multiple qualifications that can lead to GDC registration, and they are typically delivered outside of Higher Education Institutions, which can funnel graduates into well-established career pipelines. Combined with the lack of an obvious direction for career development once qualified, these factors can make the waters of career advancement rather muddy. Therefore, a key objective for our inaugural Faculty board is to implement the newly developed Career Pathways framework, led by our Vice-Chair Debbie Reed.

We have also prioritised development of the Faculty membership pathways for Dental Nurses and Orthodontic Therapists. Our newly developing Faculty membership criteria uphold the highest clinical standards and are relevant and accessible to our community of professionals. It is also important to note that for the first time, all levels of membership and fellowship of the College are open to all dental professionals, and we encourage our eligible members to consider application. Our Career Pathways framework can support our members to meet the different levels of Faculty and College criteria.

However, our Faculty is only as strong as its membership. It is imperative that we work together with our members at all stages of their careers, including trainees and newly qualified members, to develop the Faculty in a direction that serves our community. We are determined that both registrant categories within the Faculty have equivalent voice, and as such we are especially keen to engage with our community of Orthodontic Therapists.  We know that amongst our Dental Nurses and Orthodontic Therapists there are many experienced, talented, highly achieving professionals who have made significant impact on patient and public health, and the dental profession. Our ultimate aim as a board is to provide means to fully recognise those contributions, in parity with other registrant categories, and to provide support and guidance for our members to realise their career ambitions to their fullest potential.

Louise Belfield AssocFCGDent is a dental nurse, research scientist, lecturer, Health Education England Dental Clinical Fellow, and National Examination Board for Dental Nurses Trustee. Louise is a member of the College Council, the Professional Affairs Committee and the Membership Admissions Panel.

Bill Sharpling, Chair of the Faculty of Clinical Dental Technology & Dental Technology

It has been a pleasure to be involved in the College of General Dentistry since its very early days, after registering as a supporter in 2018. In 2020, I was invited to join the College Advisory Strategy Group and I built a team of Clinical Dental Technicians (CDTs) and Dental Technicians (DTs) who were keen to work together for the greater good of the College and the profession. I Chair the CDT and DT Working Group that has contributed to the development of the Career Pathway and Professional Framework and am a member of the College Council.

As soon as the opportunity arose to progress the creation of the four College Faculties, work began on assembling what would become the Board of our own Faculty, the Faculty of Clinical Dental Technology and Dental Technology (FCDTDT). It is worth noting that the actual final title of the Faculty is still under discussion by the Board and has not yet been finalised.

The Faculty Board members are:

  • Bill Sharpling (Chair and member of the College Council)
  • Steve Taylor (Vice Chair)
  • Mike Brindle
  • Lee Butler
  • Tony Laurie
  • Jiri Matl
  • Caroline Persaud
  • Emily Pittard
  • David Reay

The Board are a great bunch with a real mix of experience and huge amounts of enthusiasm to see real progression for our CDT and DT professions. Each member has shown such dedication to their role and have all taken on specific positions to enable progress. With such a small group it is not possible to replicate the structure and member roles of the full College Council but we have hopefully been able to cover most elements with this select group.

Each of the devolved nations has representation should it be needed. Mike, Jiri and Caroline have made themselves available to consider issues relating to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively. Tony and Steve are overseeing the faculty’s CPD activities and Emily is the Early Careers representative. Membership admissions will be managed by Lee and David with Caroline and Mike having the extra responsibility for Career Pathways activity.

The Board has met a couple of times and is scheduled to meet at least three times each year just ahead of Council meetings. Each meeting will have a principal theme. So far, the schedule has included CPD, membership levels and Career Pathway work. During the CPD meeting, Board members were joined by Robert Dyas from ProDental CPD and good progress was made regarding arranging a CPD programme for both DTs and CDTs.

DTs and CDTs are encouraged to join CGDent and once they have done so, will automatically also become a member of the Faculty. Members will be able to apply to join the Faculty at a certain level which is dependent on qualifications and/or experience. The level that one can join then determines the post nominals that a Faculty member is entitled to use. Members will also be able to join a Certified Membership Scheme which will enable them to be supported and mentored at the same time as progressing through the Career Pathway, mapped against certain criteria.

These are very early days for the Faculty, but with the continued support from the Board and the guidance and direction from the College, progress will continue to be made and the profession will see significant benefits for the long term.

Bill Sharpling FCGDent is Associate Dean (CPD) and Director of the London Dental Education Centre (LonDEC) at the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences, King’s College London and Honorary Professor at RAK College of Dental Sciences, UAE. Bill is a member of the College Council and the Careers and Training Committee.

John Stanfield, Chair of the Faculty of Dental Hygiene & Dental Therapy

Throughout the formation of the College of General Dentistry, the creation of Faculties supporting each of the dental team groups, with membership levels that are attained by progression through the Career Pathway, has been a key vision.

The work that has been ongoing in a multi-threaded stream, has now allowed us to start to form the faculties.  To this end, we have appointed an inaugural board to the Faculty of Dental Hygiene & Dental Therapy which will guide the Faculty until we have enough members to have elections.

The Board members are:

  • John Stanfield (Chair and member of the College Council)
  • Frances Robinson (Vice Chair)
  • Sarah Hill
  • Laura McClune
  • Sarah Murray
  • Fiona Sandom
  • Miranda Steeples
  • Deborah Stratford
  • Kirstie Thwaites

The Board, as you can see, brings together a huge amount of experience and qualifications to lead us forward in this historic and bold move for the profession.  Our tasks, as we go forward, enthuse each of us, knowing this can only improve our standing both within the dental profession and that of the general public.

Our Faculty has to grow, we require members to become part of our community, to set and raise standards, and to have input into how the Faculty and the College are run.  We have our voice on the College Council, with full voting rights, this task has been appointed to me until we vote for a chair of the Faculty who will then join the Council. 

Previously I had been involved with FGDP, both as a member and vice-chair of the DCP committee and as the editor of ‘Team in Practice’.  However, we couldn’t be full Members, nor did we have any voting rights.  I took on this role to support the vision of a College that would represent the whole dental team with an opportunity for all to be full Members.  We all have the same chance to be admitted to the community as Members, Associate Fellows and Fellows of the Faculty and the College.  Many have already been admitted as Associate Fellows of the College and we have just had our first Faculty member admitted as a Fellow of the College – my congratulations go to Fiona Sandom.

Currently, the Board is working on adapting the Career Pathways in Dentistry Professional  Framework to meet the needs of our constituents, mapping this against the expected career stages.

The Faculty will be expected to contribute to College publications, standards and guidance, to any of the press releases which involve our members and to this end we will be bringing on board those of you with particular experience and expertise.  We are very aware of the increasing academic achievements of our constituents and the research they are carrying out and want to make the most of this.

Joining the faculty and the college brings with it certain benefits:                                              

  • Recognition of postgraduate training and experience, your pathway from Safe Practitioner to Accomplished Practitioner
  • CPD via ProDental CPD (over 1000 hours)
  • Primary Dental Journal
  • Certified Membership Scheme
  • Belonging to a community of like-minded professionals

John Stanfield AssocFCGDent has over 40 years’ experience as a dental hygienist, and works in private dental practice in Cheshire. He was Editor of the FGDP’s Team in Practice journal and Vice-Chair of its DCP Committee, and now serves on the College’s Membership Affairs Committee. John is also a member of the College Council.

Education partnership with Dentistry Show London

The College will be the headline education partner for the Clinical Excellence Theatre at Dentistry Show London 2022, hosting nine seminars in three CPD theatres over the two-day conference.

CGDent speakers: top row: Jalpesh Patel, Kevin Lewis, Jason Wong, Wendy Thompson; bottom row: Tim Newton, Jacqui Elsden, Pynadath George, Abhi Pal

The College will be welcoming members and non-members alike to its sessions, with eight experts in their fields sharing their knowledge and giving advice on an array of subjects encompassing clinical dentistry, professionalism and career support:

  • Introduction to facial aesthetics and the current educational pathways
  • Duty of Candour: the legal and regulatory risk
  • Professionalism – a medico-legal perspective
  • Creating a positive patient safety culture in dentistry
  • Antimicrobial prescribing in dentistry
  • Mental health wellness in dentistry
  • Supporting staff through menopause (co-hosted with the BADN)
  • Mentoring in implant dentistry: good practice guidelines
  • Record-keeping in the real world of general dental practice

College representatives will also be available throughout the conference at Stand F58 to talk to delegates about the College, its vision for the profession and the benefits of membership, and to answer questions.

Conference registration is free, and delegates will have access to over 100 seminars in all across 6 lecture theatres, as well as over 180 exhibiting suppliers, and the opportunity to network with thousands of dentists, practice managers, hygienists and therapists, dental nurses, technicians and laboratory owners.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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College welcomes NHS England contract changes

The College has responded to changes to the NHS England dental contract announced by the Chief Dental Officer for England, Sara Hurley FCGDent.

Dental therapists will soon be able to accept patients for NHS treatments, providing fillings, sealants and preventative care for adults and children. Providers will also be able to claim for five Units of Dental Activity (UDAs), rather than three at present, where a patient requires filling or extraction of three or more teeth in a course of treatment and/or non-molar endodontic care to permanent teeth, and seven UDAs for a course of treatment requiring the provision of molar endodontic care to permanent teeth. In addition, practices may be able to increase their NHS activity by up to 10% beyond their contracted amount if local dental funding is underspent.

Responding to the announcement, Abhi Pal FCGDent, President of the College of General Dentistry, said:

“While the NHS dental contract in England still needs wider and more fundamental reform, we welcome these changes – the first in 16 years – as positive and significant improvements.

“In particular, we have previously called for the removal of unnecessary restrictions on the roles played by members of the wider dental team, and are pleased to see that steps will be soon taken in this direction. The College believes that greater recognition and use within NHS dentistry of the full range of skills of all team members will benefit patients, enable the delivery of more preventative care, and support professional satisfaction and staff retention.

“We have also said that while truly universal access to NHS dentistry can only be achieved with greater funding, access can still be improved through better allocation of existing resources. We therefore welcome the direction of more resource to the treatment of patients with greater needs, as well as the potential for practices to deliver additional care so that all funding allocated to dentistry is used for its intended purpose.”

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Supporting staff through menopause – 16 February 2023

Live webinar, Thursday 16 February 2023, 7pm

In the first half of 2022, the British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN) published a menopause policy and advice outlining the challenges faced by menopausal women in the workplace, with suggestions for how employers can support menopausal employees. 

In the UK, 99% of dental nurses, 96% of orthodontic therapists, 94% of dental hygienists,  92% of dental therapists, 52% of dentists and 27% of dental technicians are female – 78% of the regulated dental profession as a whole.

This webinar will explore the BADN’s recent menopause policy and consider the ways menopausal staff can be supported in the workplace.

Speaker:

  • Jacqui Elsden, BADN President 2022

This webinar is free to view live for all dental professionals.

This webinar is powered by our CPD delivery partner, ProDental CPDCGDent members and ProDental subscribers will have free access to the recorded webinar and can claim CPD hours for free.  A £20 fee will apply for non-members/non-subscribers who wish to claim CPD.

Membership of the College of General Dentistry is open to all registered dental professionals. Membership for dentists is available from £94, and for other registered dental professionals from £33. The full list of CGDent membership rates is at https://cgdent.uk/membership-fees/

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Vice-Presidents and dental team representatives 2022-23

Tashfeen Kholasi and Patricia Thomson have been elected as the College of General Dentistry’s Vice-Presidents for 2022-23, and Louise Belfield, John Stanfield, Bill Sharpling and Sarah Hill have been re-appointed to their roles providing representation of the wider dental team on the College Council.

Top row (l-r): Tashfeen Kholasi, Patricia Thomson, Louise Belfield
Bottom row (l-r): Bill Sharpling, John Stanfield, Sarah Hill

Patricia Thomson FCGDent, Council representative for the West and North of Scotland, graduated from Glasgow Dental School in 1983 and has worked in general dental practice ever since. She became a principal in 1985, sold her practice in 2017, and now works as a part-time associate. She has provided mixed NHS and private care and has an interest in orthodontics. She has tutored colleagues for entry exams for the Royal Colleges, presented teaching sessions on orthodontics to vocational trainees, and delivers postgraduate lectures at RCPS Glasgow. She served on the National Board of the Faculty of General Dental Practice UK (FGDP) from 2016-21, and is Chair of the College of General Dentistry’s Regional Funding Panel. She is a Fellow of the International College of Dentists and a Past President of the West of Scotland branch of the British Dental Association.

Tashfeen Kholasi FCGDent, Council representative for the North East and North West Thames region, was re-elected after serving as one of the College’s inaugural Vice-Presidents in 2021-22. She is an associate dentist and Chief Clinical Information Officer in general dental practice, as well as a Clinical Tutor in Special Care and Sedation at King’s College London, from where she qualified. With a strong interest in digital health, she is a Fellow of the Faculty of Clinical Informatics, and a former health informatics clinical lead at NHS Digital. She has a Diploma in Conscious Sedation and a Master’s in Legal Aspects of Medical Practice, and is currently completing a Master’s in Healthcare Leadership and Commissioning. She was elected to the FGDP’s board in 2020 and serves on the College’s Membership Affairs Committee, Professional Affairs Committee and Membership Admissions Panel.

The Vice-Presidents support the College President in the delivery of the strategy and policy agreed by the Council, from which they are elected.

Roshni Karia MCGDent stood down as a Vice-President after completing the maximum two years’ service in the role, having previously been Vice-Dean of the FGDP in 2019-20. During her tenure, she has been instrumental in the development of the College’s soon-to-be-launched Certified Membership scheme, and has been appointed Chair of the College’s Professional Affairs Committee for 2022-23.

Louise Belfield, John Stanfield and Bill Sharpling have been re-appointed to the College Council for a further year as the respective voting representatives of dental nursing & orthodontic therapy, dental hygiene & therapy, and dental technology & clinical dental technology. It is intended that these positions will become elected in 2023 following the formation of professional faculties within the College. Sarah Hill has also been re-appointed to provide additional non-voting representation of dental professionals other than dentists.

Louise Belfield AssocFCGDent is a dental nurse, research scientist, lecturer, Health Education England Dental Clinical Fellow, and National Examination Board for Dental Nurses Trustee. Louise trained as a dental nurse in Devon, qualifying in 2001. She has worked across a range of dental specialties at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust including community, special care, and emergency dentistry, as well as in general dental practice. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Human Biosciences, a doctorate in immunology, and a postgraduate certificate in clinical education. She was awarded Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy in 2019 in recognition of her continued contributions to dental education. She is a member of the College’s Professional Affairs Committee and Membership Admissions Panel.

Bill Sharpling FCGDent is Associate Dean (CPD) and Director of the London Dental Education Centre (LonDEC) at the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences, King’s College London. Previously, he was Head of Dental Technology at Guy’s, King’s College and St Thomas’ Hospitals. He is also the External Examiner for the BSc(Hons) Clinical Dental Technology programme at the University of Central Lancashire. After qualifying in 1986, Bill spent the next 10 years working as a Dental Technician, gaining advanced qualifications in fixed and removable prosthodontics. He has worked in commercial dental laboratories, the Armed Forces and as the Chief Instructor in Conservative Dental Technology at Guy’s Hospital Dental School. He is a member of the College’s Careers and Training Committee.

John Stanfield AssocFCGDent has over 40 years’ experience as a dental hygienist, and works in private dental practice in Cheshire. He was Editor of the FGDP’s Team in Practice journal and Vice-Chair of its DCP Committee, and now serves on the College’s Membership Affairs Committee. Originally qualifying in the Army in 1980, he has experience of hospital, NHS, teaching establishments and private practice. He has studied learning and teaching, with a special interest in the use of technology and media, was a clinical lead for NHS Test & Trace, and is a trustee for the dental charity Maasai Molar, enabling the education of children of the Maasai region towards better dental health.

Sarah Hill AssocFCGDent qualified as a dental hygienist from the University of Bristol with distinction in 2012, and holds a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Southampton and a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Education from the University of Plymouth. Working as a hygienist in a mixed orthodontic practice in Halesowen, she has previously delivered presentations for TePe, been a sales representative for GlaxoSmithKline, and a lecturer in Community-Based Dentistry at Peninsula Dental School. An assessor for the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and past Chair of the South West and South Wales group of the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy, she was an Affiliate Member of FGDP from 2013-21, and the DCP representative on both its West Midlands and national boards. 

Abhi Pal FCGDent, President of the College, said:

“On behalf of our members, I congratulate Patricia on her election as Vice-President, Tashfeen on her re-election for a second term, and Louise, Bill, John and Sarah on their re-appointment as dental team representatives. I look forward to drawing on their vast and varied experience, knowledge and expertise as the College continues to fulfil its historic mission to build a professional body for all dental professionals.

“I would also like to thank Roshni for her service as Vice-President, and look forward to continuing to work with her as we launch Certified Membership and in her new role overseeing our professional affairs activity.”

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Domestic abuse in dentistry – speak out – 1 November 2022

Live webinar, Tuesday 1 November 2022, 7pm

Safeguarding training is mandatory for all members of the dental team, and this webinar explores how dental professionals play an essential role in the safeguarding of patients and colleagues.

Speaker Preetee Hylton, will examine different types of abuse, explain how to recognise signs that someone is being subjected to abuse and how to act accordingly to preserve your patients’ and colleagues’ safety. Preetee will explore the importance of creating a safe space for employees to ask for help and will introduce the Employer’s Initiative for Domestic Abuse (EIDA), an evolving community working towards supporting domestic abuse victims, and providing access to services to help perpetrators to stop.

Speaker:

  • Preetee Hylton, Restorative Dental Nurse and Safeguarding Lead

GDC development outcomes: A, D

CPD approx 1.5 hours

This webinar is free to view live for all dental professionals.

This webinar is powered by our CPD delivery partner, ProDental CPDCGDent members and ProDental subscribers will have free access to the recorded webinar and can claim CPD hours for free.  A £20 fee will apply for non-members/non-subscribers who wish to claim CPD.

Membership of the College of General Dentistry is open to all registered dental professionals. Membership for dentists is available from £94, and for other registered dental professionals from £33. The full list of CGDent membership rates is at https://cgdent.uk/membership-fees/

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College endorses menopause policy for dental employers

The College has endorsed the menopause policy and advice recently published by the British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN).

In the UK, 99% of dental nurses, 96% of orthodontic therapists, 94% of dental hygienists,  92% of dental therapists, 52% of dentists and 27% of dental technicians are female – 78% of the regulated dental profession as a whole – and the policy outlines the challenges faced by menopausal women in the workplace and suggests ways in which employers can support menopausal employees. 

The Association is asking dental practices, laboratories and clinics to adopt the policy and implement it in their workplace, and is asking dental organisations to support it by encouraging its widespread adoption.

The College of General Dentistry, membership of which is open to all dental and oral health professionals, is the first organisation representing dentists to do so. The College is the independent professional body into which the Faculty of General Dental Practice transferred last year, and is the UK’s only medical college run by and for oral health professionals.

Abhi Pal, President of the College of General Dentistry, said:

“The BADN’s Menopause Policy is important, practical and succinct advice which helps dental professionals to better understand the menopause, to appreciate relevant employment law, and to implement a menopause policy in their practice.

Making appropriate adjustments for staff affected by the menopause is both a moral duty enabling committed and experienced colleagues to remain in valuable employment, and a legal duty not to discriminate on the grounds of gender, age or disability. Supportive dental practices and understanding employers will also find they benefit in return from improved staff retention and reduced sickness absence.

On behalf of the College, I congratulate the BADN on its publication, and am pleased to endorse it.”

The policy is also supported by the British Society of Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT), the British Association of Dental Therapists (BADT), the British Dental Industry Association (BDIA), the Dental Laboratories Association (DLA), the Dental Technologists’ Association (DTA), the Orthodontic National Group (ONG), and the British Veterinary Nurses’ Association (BVNA).

The publication is available on the BADN website here

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Looking after your data – 11 October 2022

Live webinar, Tuesday 11 October 2022, 7pm

This webinar was previously scheduled for 15 September 2022

In this live webinar, we aim to demystify issues around handling patient data: how to store data, how to use it and how to share it within current guidelines and best practice. We will provide an overview of Caldicott Principles, information sharing for patient care and GDPR. She will also look at the role of digital technology in information sharing, and how to share information safely and securely in your practice.

Speaker:

  • Pat Langley, CEO Apolline

GDC learning outcomes: A, D

CPD approx 1.5 hours

This webinar is free to view live for all dental professionals.

This webinar is powered by our CPD delivery partner, ProDental CPDCGDent members and ProDental subscribers will have free access to the recorded webinar and can claim CPD hours for free.  A £20 fee will apply for non-members/non-subscribers who wish to claim CPD.

Membership of the College of General Dentistry is open to all registered dental professionals. Membership for dentists is available from £94, and for other registered dental professionals from £33. The full list of CGDent membership rates is at https://cgdent.uk/membership-fees/

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Professional Framework for general dental professionals to be launched

The College has announced that it will be launching its much-anticipated Professional Framework next month.

Guests celebrating the launch of the College at Barber-Surgeons’ Hall, where the Professional Framework will be launched next month at the Fellows’ Summer Reception

The Professional Framework will describe the knowledge, skills and other attributes that primary care dentists and other dental professionals may aspire to at different stages of their career, and underpins the College’s Career Pathways programme. An initial framework published last year identifies five domains:

  • Clinical and technical: the capability to diagnose, to advise and to treat
  • Professionalism: the conduct and behaviour to engage patient trust and confidence
  • Reflection: awareness of personal impact, abilities and limitations
  • Development: commitment and capability to improve the service to patients
  • Agency: the ability to resolve solutions independently and through others

The creation of career pathways for general dental practice was a key founding purpose of the College, which has been developing sets of progressive steps for each dental team role in order to provide purpose and direction for dental careers, to enhance professional standing, and to help retain and nurture a motivated workforce.

These are being mapped out by four working groups – representing dentists, dental hygienists & therapists, dental nurses & orthodontic therapists, and dental & clinical dental technicians – working together through a programme board chaired by Professor Avijit Banerjee and a reference group chaired by Dr Shamir Mehta.

The Professional Framework will be launched at the inaugural Fellows’ Summer Reception, which takes place on Wednesday 15 June at Barber-Surgeons’ Hall in London. It will be preceded by the conferral of Fellowships, President’s Commendations and the prestigious College Medal, and will take place in front of around a hundred guests.

Fellows and Associate Fellows of the College, as well as FGDP Fellows who were unable to enjoy formal conferral of their fellowship during 2020-21 due to coronavirus restrictions, are eligible to attend. Tickets are £20, to include wine and canapés, and a small number of spaces remain.

The College’s Career Pathways programme is generously supported by Colgate.

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Transforming oral health: A fellow’s journey

Dental Hygienist, Frances Robinson AssocFCGDent, has recently completed the Clinical Oral Health Transformation Fellowship with HEE. As the first ever dental care professional in any clinical fellowship role, Frances explains what was involved.  

A fellowship is a position, often combined with clinical work, that focuses on the learning and development of the individual taking part. Fellowship roles in the healthcare profession aim to expand opportunities for aspiring leaders; helping them gain the necessary experience and skills for future system leadership roles. As such, there are a range of opportunities to be involved with projects and programmes and to work in settings outside a clinician’s normal exposure. There can be specific goals of writing, submitting, and publishing papers, attending meetings and conferences, and working on particular projects, as well as networking. The balance of these is dependent on the host organisation.

I have just completed a one-year position with Health Education England (HEE) as their Clinical Oral Health Transformation Fellow. HEE’s purpose is to support the delivery of excellent healthcare to patients, by ensuring that the workforce has the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours. Thus, the areas I worked on related to the development of the oral health work force.

I was the first dental care professional (DCP) to be awarded the clinical fellowship, these roles are typically fulfilled by a dentist. I am extremely grateful for this innovative appointment both for my personal development and the development of my career, but also for other DCP colleagues, for now it has opened up new realms of opportunities for us to progress in system roles.

I applied for the role because of the potential to gain experience working in the public health sector, whilst allowing me to work clinically at the same time. Having completed a Masters in Dental Public Health in 2017 – spurred on by my interests in health inequalities research – I felt this position would be an excellent opportunity for me to develop my career.

At the CDO stand with Sara Hurley and other fellows at the BDIA showcase

During a fellowship there is flexibility to align the projects undertaken to individual interests, whilst working for the greater aims of an organisation. This means there is a real opportunity to tailor a role to where there is the most personal or organisational benefit. My aims for the year working with HEE were to work on projects that I’m interested in, for example oral health inequalities, oral health empowerment and promotion, increase my skill mix and exposure to multidisciplinary team working in primary care, as well and develop opportunities for leadership and management for all members of the dental team.

I am currently writing up multiple papers to be published; one evaluates the success of a pilot that aimed to reduce the number of paediatric patients sent to secondary care for dental extractions under general anaesthetic. A subsequent paper will evaluate the success of the “return to work” therapy scheme, a programme aimed at supporting Dental Therapists who have not been using their full scope of practice, back into therapy work by providing them with training opportunities, supervisor support and a practice placement. I will also be helping to write a concept paper for a Dental Hygiene postgraduate training programme.

During my time with HEE, I have had the chance to sit on various working groups like a “Managed Clinical Network” and interact with external organisations such as Public Health England, academic institutions, professional societies and local councils.

A clinical fellow may also have the opportunity to attend courses and gain qualifications that are not linked to their clinical work; I was selected to complete an Institute of Leadership and Management, level 7 qualification through HEE. I received three days of training with UMD Professional and then completed a research element which involved interviewing my colleagues at the HEE dental office.

Furthermore, I am currently completing a “Becoming an Expert Educator in the Healthcare Professions” course with the University of Nottingham. These additional skills and qualifications are important for demonstrating tangible outcomes from the year.

It has sometimes been a trying year due to the pandemic – working from home during a fellowship has meant less interaction with colleagues and difficulty integrating into an office very different from a clinical setting. Natural communication with colleagues is often stilted when working virtually. I subsequently created ice breakers for meetings with my peers to stimulate organic conversation!  

There are other fellows across the country with HEE and in other organisations for example with the Chief Dental Officer, General Dental Council, Care Quality Commission and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I). We have a clinical fellow networking group where collaborations across work streams can be facilitated and a journal club takes place. This has given me the chance to network with new professionals across medicine and dentistry which has been really enjoyable! The fellows try to see each other in person despite being spread out across the country– the most recent of which was at the BDIA Dental Showcase at ExCel London.

As I was the first fellow at Health Education England to be a DCP I was – and still am – in a unique position to be an advocate for DCPs, working hard to make our voices heard across a variety of settings. I was asked to do a presentation at the BDIA conference on workforce and skill mix. I focused on the skill mix in our systems, policy, planning, commissioning, leadership and management. I am passionate about DCP representation in all of these areas as I truly believe that if we are represented throughout the system we will have a more empowered workforce. If you’re interested in taking up a Fellowship position, keep an eye on NHS jobs, HEE jobs, FMLM for dentists and your professional society pages.

Presenting at the BDIA showcase

The College of General Dentistry has a unique structure with exciting opportunities to create connections between different dental professionals against an academic backdrop. There are no other organisations in the industry now that represents all dental registrants in this way. The careers pathway programme will be able to support individuals navigating their fields; there will be guidance, support networks and mentors available to enhance learning and progression. I personally am very excited to have a structure in which to work, with industry recognition of the level attained. I know that many DCPs have much to offer the wider industry with postgraduate qualifications and extensive experience in many areas, as well as evidence of enhanced learning. The College will enable these efforts to be verified through a framework where all dental professional are assessed equally. This certainly is an exciting time for us all.

Frances Robinson chairs the Dental Hygiene & Dental Therapy Group on the College’s Career Pathways programme.

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