October 2021 Report by the RCSEd Dental Dean
13 October 2021
This year, my first as Dean of the Dental Faculty, has been extremely challenging as it was February before I was first allowed to travel to Edinburgh. Not since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic has the world been so affected by the levels of mortality due to one infective agent, and we in Dentistry were specifically affected.
In general dental practice the effect was felt on personal finances and more importantly the health and wellbeing of staff was devastating, as was patient care which was stopped for long periods. For specialists in hospital the issues are still around managing complex patient care, often switched to online advice only, and the subsequent development long treatment waiting lists and the terrible fall out from not being able to actively diagnose and treat patients particularly regarding the management of oral cancer. These issues will not be resolved easily, and the Faculty is developing strategies to help our members and fellows’ cope.
Being unable to function in the way we have for many years has, even in the terrible darkness of the pandemic, brought opportunity much of which is around more effective working practices. We have not been able to travel abroad to meetings or to perform assessments as we might usually, but this time has focused our minds on other ways of working, including the provision of examination diets online. This will be the way forward for some of the international examinations for the foreseeable future and the Faculty is at the very forefront of designing how we can provide these safely, securely and without any dilution of our usual high standards. We will still be maintaining our presence internationally, but the visits will be more specifically targeted to improve understanding of our partners’ needs and provide effective educational opportunities.
Our relationships with our international colleagues are very important and we have spent a lot of time supporting these links across the world whilst investigating new working practices with other countries hitherto not connected to the Dental Faculty of the College. This is an exciting prospect as our reach continues to grow the Dental family associated with the Edinburgh College.
We attempted to bring those colleagues across the world together in at the first RCSEd World Dental Conference. This ideal was thwarted by an attendance of only around 400 delegates but still the quality of the speakers and the feedback on the conference was exceptional and it was felt that the downfall was due to the timing, particularly after a year of home working and easily available, free of charge online continuing professional development.
A more positive note has been the progress made with the introduction of a new suite of diploma examinations targeted at the experienced but not specialist level practitioner which will introduce and opportunity for more of our colleagues to see the benefit of joining our College as part of their career portfolio. This is part of a bigger project to improve access to our College for dentists and dental care professionals wherever they practice. The accreditation process is complete for both courses and training programmes and already there has been much interest in making this a reality for our partner organisations.
Work is going ahead to improve the governance of our day-to-day work in the Faculty and make processes more transparent to our members and fellows. Specifically, we are providing clarity around the recognition of pathways for the awarding of honorary diplomas. We have been working at making the structure of meetings more efficient both in content and financially. There is work in progress to refine the terms of reference for our boards to align them with each other in purpose and output.
We have been fortunate this year to build on our relationships in the UK with several of the leading bodies that influence health care. Latterly we have been admitted to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and already this has reaped rewards as we have promises around improved acknowledgement of the importance of dentists in the delivery of prevention even beyond dentistry and most specifically in support of my manifesto to promote further schemes to provide fluoridation of the water supply to more areas particularly those in areas of deprivation.
I look forward to next year which will be our 40th anniversary as a Faculty to be able to celebrate our achievement over that time and to be able to bring to you news of an exciting future for the Dental team.
Professor Philip Taylor - Dean of The Dental Faculty