Carlisle Dental Centre showcases its brilliance

The Chief Dental Officer for England, Sara Hurley, visited Carlisle Dental Centre to see how we are leading the way with emergency dental care and teaching the next generation of dentists.

Sara got to see the journey patients experience when using the emergency dental care service Dental Direct. Stephen Jones, Clinical Director for Specialist Dental services at Cumbria Partnership NHS explained how it works:

“This system is regarded as the gold standard and the North East are looking at adopting it. Dental direct operatives – who are all qualified dental nurses, answer calls for the whole of Cumbria from people who require emergency or specialist dental care. Patients are then triaged and the team are then able to find the best appointment for those patients depending on their needs. Dental Direct helpline operates seven days a week and is available 24 hours a day for patients to request a call back from the service.”

Whilst being shown the system Sara credited its function and the team, saying:

“This is a really efficient system and it’s quite personalised as well – I see that the system even allows for prioritisation. It’s a system that works and it seems like you are appreciated. You have local knowledge that helps patients get the right service in the right place for their needs; you wouldn’t get that with a bigger hub.

“There are a range of versions of good work and we need to share good practice software and good ideas better in dentistry.”

Sara Hurley being shown Dental Direct by Bonita Curr

Emma Hoyles, senior network manager for Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust added:

“There is also scope to develop the system; we would like to start to record calls so that we can use it for training purposes. Communications is so vital in this role we need to be able to continually develop skills.”

Stephen highlighted that the team are working on an updated referral criteria; Sara praised his forward thinking and agreed that there is a need for one set of national guidelines for professionals to refer to for specialist dental care.

During the discussions surrounding Dental Direct the use of community pharmacies to help ease the system was approached by Sara, who said:

“I think that we need to work with 111 regarding analgesia. Community pharmacies can help people more for example in the middle of the night. Sometimes we forget that what the patient needs is pain relief so we should work to get them this through community pharmacies first and then follow on with an appointment. The priority is the pain relief not the appointment.

“For example you wouldn’t go to a foot doctor if you had a sore foot you’d get pain relief and then make an appointment with your GP.”

Sara also visited the Dental School where the next generation of University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) dental students learn their trade.

Kumar Datla, a Clinical Tutor at the Dental School in Carlisle Dental Centre, explained to Sara how the school is turning out some of the best students in the UK including James McParlane who was named best in the UK recently.

Sara commented:

“You are clearly doing great work in Cumbria to ensure the next generation of dentists are the best they can be, keep up the good work.”

Stephen Jones and Sara Hurley talking to Clinical Tutor Kumar Datla

No patient treatments were disrupted or amended due to Sara’s visit, something that Sara herself specifically requested and the dental centre were keen to uphold.