The Dental Leadership Network meets to understand the systems in which the dental sector operates across the UK

07 July, 2023

The GDC convened the latest Dental Leadership Network to improve understanding of the systems in which the dental sector operates, from the perspective of dental professionals.

This is the third time leaders have met as the Dental Leadership Network. Attendees represent stakeholder groups across the dental professions, education and government in the four nations.

Speakers were asked to explain their organisation’s role in the systems and the constraints and opportunities to work together to effect change. Attendees were invited to suggest how they can prepare their teams for working in the various systems and how they can influence the systems in which they work.

Ian Brack, GDC CEO and Registrar, opened the event, explaining the systems we operate in, the regulator’s role, constraints and opportunities being taken to make a difference, including improvements to fitness to practise and changes to international registration.

Professor Rebecca Harris, Deputy CDO NHS England, explained the relationship between the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care, that NHS England is in transition, and the context of the Chief Dental Officer’s responsibilities to provide senior clinical oversight to bring consistency and clinical engagement to improve NHS dental services and oral health.

Dr Jane Luker, Postgraduate Dental Dean and Chair of COPDEND, described how training dental professionals was changing in response to their needs to provide high quality care to their patients while having access to portfolio careers and more flexible opportunities to undertake postgraduate training, against the challenges of workforce distribution and an aging population with significant oral health needs.

Stakeholders representing providers in the system joined a panel discussion to explain their role and challenges, including the falling numbers of dental technicians and the need to develop, recruit and retain dental professionals across the whole dental team, including the importance of communicating the wide range of careers available across dentistry.

A panel of early career dental professionals shared their experiences of navigating the system, how they used their networks to build resilience and confidence and overcome some of the challenges of joining the dental workforce, especially having graduated immediately after the pandemic or trained, qualified and worked outside the UK.

Dental leaders then discussed how best they can support their own teams so that they understand their organisation’s role in the system, and how leaders can find and take opportunities to influence the system.

Finally, Andrew Dickenson, CDO Wales, closed the Dental Leadership Network, reflecting on the theme and sharing his thoughts on what is needed within a healthcare system, with patients at the centre.

The objectives of the Dental Leadership Network are to share information and build relationships, create a better understanding of everyone’s remit, priorities and shared challenges and encourage collaboration and ownership to resolve shared challenges. The next event will focus on the system from the perspective of patients and the public.