Spotlight on… – March 2012

Public Health England (PHE) will bring together the functions of a range of current bodies. Between them, they currently employ some 4,500 staff in locations across the country and carry out roles from tracking the health of the public to developing policy advice, designing and monitoring screening programmes and from investigating infectious disease outbreaks to improving the availability, capacity and effectiveness of drug treatment in England. The Transforming Public Health Bulletin focuses on one of these bodies in each edition, looking at the current roles, responsibilities and functions which will integrate together to form Public Health England.

Consultants in Dental Public Health

Consultants in Dental Public Health are dentists who have undergone higher training to provide strategic advice in the dental commissioning, oral health improvement, patient safety, innovation and quality improvement, productivity and clinical and public involvement.

The goals for dental public health are:

  • informing the development of healthcare policy at all levels of policy-making;
  • to improve the oral health and wellbeing of the population, to reduce oral health inequalities and to make oral health services available for all and tailored to meet the needs of each individual;
  • for the wider dental team to work collaboratively with other healthcare workers and agencies to promote health and prevent disease, including through a common risk factor approach;
  • to ensure patient safety and promote high standards of effective clinical performance in dentistry;
  • through education and training of dental and healthcare professionals and others contributes to oral health improvement; and
  • through high quality research to support oral health improvement and the delivery and organisation of high quality, evidence-based dental care.

At present consultants are normally employed by PCTs and/or SHAs and work closely with commissioning, health improvement and health protection teams. There are relatively few consultants in England – around 32 whole time equivalents. In delivering against these programmes, consultants in Dental Public Health have a varied role, working with a extremely wide array of different organisations and individuals.

Consultants will need to continue this work across organisational boundaries in the new healthcare structure where their ability to identify and influence key individuals locally will be of paramount importance. In particular, they will be expected to form a close working relationship with the NHS Commissioning Board to support dental commissioning, including the development of Local Professional Networks and implementation of new contractual arrangements currently being piloted. They will also need to develop links with local authorities to support oral health improvement through Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNA) and the oral health component of health and wellbeing strategies.

Dental Public Health Consultants work closely with the rest of the dental public health team, whose workforce includes specialists, dental practice advisors, oral health promoters, and dental epidemiologists, to ensure professional leadership and accountability. As with any specialty, some consultants have joint roles with other work areas and some are academics with honorary contracts.

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