Chief dental officer leaving NHS England

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Chief Dental Officer for England to stand down

Chief Dental Officer for England to stand down
Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Fri. 26 May 2023


Sara Hurley, the Chief Dental Officer for England is standing down after eight years in the job to focus on her new roles as a Non-Executive Director at Surrey Heartlands ICB and as an independent director at the University of Suffolk.

Sara was appointed Chief Dental Officer for England in 2015. Previously, Sara served as a clinician and latterly as Chief Dental Officer for the Army. Since her appointment Sara has championed innovation and delivered on her pledge to “put the mouth back in the body”.

This has included programmes such as Starting Well, a ministerial supported initiative which increased dental access for children in the most deprived communities with in-practice preventative treatments. From this initial programme and the broadening of access for ‘Dental Check By 1’, children’s oral health is now an established priority for the NHS Core20Plus5 strategy for children and young people.

More recently, Sara led the dental profession through the Covid-19 pandemic, developing guidance for the profession on the safe delivery of care and managing risk.

Whilst the pandemic had a significant impact on dental access, we are now starting to see the signs of recovery. Last year the NHS and Government launched the first reforms to the dental contract in 16 years.

Sara was instrumental in developing and launching these reforms, which built on her work to move the profession towards risk-based recall and prioritisation of care for patients with high needs.

Other key reforms included better use of the skill mix of the dental workforce and allowing dental hygienists and therapists to work to their full scope of practice when delivering NHS care. These were key recommendations arising out the Advancing Dental Care Review that Sara initiated.

Together with the suite of evidence-based clinical standards she has maintained a drive on the quality of care and shared decision making.

As head of the profession, Sara secured access for dentists to the NHS Clinical Entrepreneurs’ Scheme and founded the CDO Clinical Fellows scheme.

With Sara’s support and encouragement, alumni of the scheme took the lead on highlighting issues of equality and diversity across the dental profession. The resulting report ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Dentistry profession wide commitment’ was backed by over 30 organisations and the profession’s regulators.

Sara informed the National Medical Director at the end of last year of her intention to leave the role in 2023 and has recently agreed she will depart at the end of June.

NHS England will shortly be undertaking the process to appoint the next Chief Dental Officer for England and we will announce further details in due course.

Sara Hurley, Chief Dental Officer England, said: “It has been an honour to serve patients as England’s Chief Dental Officer and I am grateful for the support I have received from all my colleagues, across the NHS, from patients, academia, clinicians, industry, and policy makers.

When I started, I said it was time to “put the mouth back in the body” – and together we have achieved a great deal to do just that. Although challenges remain, we are well on our way to changing services for the better. Delivering for patients always has and always will be my passion and that’s exactly what I will continue to do.”

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, said: Throughout her eight years as Chief Dental Officer for England, Sara has demonstrated outstanding national leadership, providing huge support and commitment to dentistry and the dental profession. From building the clinical evidence base for reform, embedding dental clinical leadership across the NHS to leading the profession through the pandemic, Sara has taken on every challenge with a relentless determination to deliver for patients. Dentistry is an important part of the NHS and I look forward to working with Sara’s successor to drive forward further reforms to improve the service for patients”.


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