Driving conversations

Monthly blog from our Clinical Director, Dr Catherine Rutland


Engaging with parliamentarians is a key part of my role and an important exercise to ensure that policymakers understand Denplan and the environment in which our members operate. Following the publication of the Next Gen Group’s policy report in the summer, I’m delighted to be able to update you on our recent parliamentary engagement, which is currently focused on taking forward the recommendations in this report.

For those that aren’t already aware, last year we convened a cohort of member dentists that are in the earlier stages of their career and established our ‘Next Generation Group’. The aim of this group is to create a safe and supportive environment for our junior dentists to share their experiences of practicing dentistry in the current landscape.

None of us were prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic and the instability it created. Our member dentists were forced to navigate the complex territory of protective measures and business support, and many practices saw their teams shrink as colleagues left the sector, in some instances for good.

This was a challenging time for us all, not least for those that had recently graduated and started their own practices. Our Next Gen Group was set up at this critical juncture to ensure that many of Denplan’s rising stars got the support they need.

Following a series of discussions, the Next Gen Group’s members published a policy paper in July, ‘Attracting the next generation of dentists: lessons to be learnt from today’s young dentists’, which explores some of the critical issues facing the dental sector under their unique lens.

The report makes a series of recommendations to policymakers and NHS bodies to drive forward change and improve the recruitment and retention of talent within the sector. These include calls to promote better career pathways for young dentists, including peer mentorship support, and representation of mixed and private dentists on Integrated Care Boards (ICBs).

To ensure that the report has impact, the Next Gen Group and I have met with a series of MPs with an interest in dentistry, who will be able to champion the issues that matter most to our young dentists.

Sir Paul Beresford MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dentistry and a dentist by trade himself, met with a member and I to hear about our solutions to some of the current problems. We also met with Peter Aldous MP, the Conservative MP for Waveney, who is eager to resolve some of the current barriers to recruitment and retention, particularly in rural constituencies such as his own.

Our Next Gen members also shared the policy paper with their own constituency MPs, which for one of our members resulted in a face-to-face meeting with his local MP, who is also a prominent Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Over the next few weeks, we have secured further meetings with MPs from across the House, to ensure that we are engaging with parliamentarians from all of the major political parties.

From my own experience of meeting with MPs, it is crucial that we share our experiences with those in the heart of Westminster and at the centre of the decision making process so that they are able to take this into account when setting policy. We can also provide parliamentarians with critical insight to support their understanding of an issue and help to shape their response.

At a time when dentistry is receiving considerable parliamentary and media attention, I am delighted that our junior dentists are leading the charge and helping to build a stronger and happier workforce.

Dr Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director, Denplan and Simplyhealth