Dental recalls – a prickly subject


Porcupines – literally ‘spiny pigs’ - have a gestation period of about six months, which is completely irrelevant to dentistry but a useful introduction to the subject of recall intervals for dental patients.

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Tony Smith

Dental, Health examination

In the 80's on the NHS, "recalls" were 5-minute affairs, when I finished 20 minutes. As the public sees and trusts us regularly, w... Read More
Tuesday, 30 August 2022 12:26
David Rundle

6 monthlies

I have often wondered about the logic of 6 month recalls, but the experience of delaying Recalls to 9/12 months, as a result of th... Read More
Friday, 02 September 2022 14:36
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Missed Opportunity

Missed Opportunity

Missed opportunity?


The Chief Dental Officer for NHS England recently found herself at the forefront of dental media storm. Playfully referred to as “Recallgate” her reported comments drew widespread criticism across a range of the profession’s leading Clinicians, and a lame response through her PR Outlet, Dentistry Online.

All this arose from her presence at the NHS Expo on a stage with some leading colleagues of the Medical and allied professions for a question and answer session.

Expo is an interesting gathering of the great and the good from the world of the NHS and industry.  The proudly proclaim

Health and Care Innovation Expo 2016 is a unique event that showcases innovation and celebrates the people who are changing the NHS, with high-profile speakers and a real focus on learning and sharing.

The NHS you’ll see at Expo on 7 and 8 September is a forward-thinking organisation, staffed by clinicians and managers who welcome innovations in technology and information because they recognise the difference this will make to their patients’ lives. Expo also welcomes and involves partners from across the public, voluntary and commercial sectors, recognising and promoting the role they play in keeping people and communities healthy.

Health and Care Innovation Expo attracts around 5,000 people across two days, the majority of whom are leaders and managers with real ability to lead and drive change in health and social care


So when the opportunity for Dr Hurley to speak, she chose to focus on  one of the most exciting developments in dentistry.


The Recall Interval.


What she said of course was hardly earth moving.

Ration the availability of NHS dentistry for the healthy in order to create space in the system for those who are not healthy and have higher needs.  This is hardly big news, is certainly not innovative, and of course was not presented as rationing by the back door. Instead it was reminder of the NIHCE Guidelines and an opportunity for some predictable side swiping at dentist.

In particular Roy Lilley made the really quite amusing quip that “Dentistry has become a rich man's hobby” The former NHS trust chairman Roy Lilley went on: “It has gone off the high street into lavish surroundings.”  

Thanks Mr Lilley, if your understanding in depth of dentistry reflects your understanding of medicine, the NHS is safe in your hands.  Oh, you are not a manager anymore?

You may follow Mr Lilley on Twitter at and contact him direct at @RoyLilley. Judging by his response to the leading BDA member Dr Eddie Crouch taking him to take, he only has a sense of humour on a public stage. Judging by his activity, he has given up NHS Management in favour of tweeting …  83,300 in 7½ years and counting!!


But look: there is a serious point here


Dentistry needs a Cheerleader

Mr Lilley is patently one of many self-appointed cheerleaders for the NHS and its achievements. Good on him. Nice money if you can get it

Dr Hurley had half a chance to really put out there what dentistry as a microbusiness, brimming with technology, can achieve for people. She could have even homed in on the Infant Caries crisis and its attendant GA costs. But no… she chose …. RECALLS!! 

The media just loved her use of the MOT analogy and the Car Mechanic.  If that is the case, I presume that Dr Hurley sees herself as in charge of Service Reception.

On a quiet news day, just feed the hacks a dental story. Works every time!

While smoking is on the decrease, and lifestyle amongst the healthy is improving, there is a section of the population who do not see a dentist and for whom Oral Cancer is a rising trend. If you are going to keep your teeth for 80+ years of adult life, getting the health of the mouth optimal and the habits established when young are critical.


What opportunity did we miss?


No mention of 3D CAD CAM Dental technology [self-invested by the laboratories and dentists – no Government subsidy there]

No mention of the investment dentist as business owners make in their facilities – no government subsidy there, and by and large no financial crisis inflated by excessive management layers.

No mention of the amazing results being offered to rehabilitate oral function using all-on-4 and all-on-6 techniques.

No mention of the amazing dental implant industry. Not a Government subsidy in sight.

No mention of the predictability of endodontics and periodontics being driven by technology of instrumentation and scientific understanding of the biology, and the ever stronger links to general health.  Little Government input there.

No mention of the aesthetic desire of the wider public now being met by a host of non-invasive whitening systems allied to orthodontics. No Government funding there.

No mention of the unsung achievement of orthodontics in lifting the psychologic wellbeing of younger patients by creating the smile that allows a young person the mature into a confident go getting adult.  OK some Government input here.

No mention of the parafunctional diagnosis meaning that dentist can frequently solve chronic pain issues long before the team of neurologists, physicians and chronic pain clinics with their MRI scans and raft of blood tests fail to diagnose and simply write the patient off to a lifetime of expensive medication.

No mention of the almost eliminated need to use mercury containing restorative materials nowadays.

No mention of the fact that Caries is preventable, and excessive sugar for infants is akin to smoking.f course no mention of all of this occurring painfree on nervous patients in one of the most difficult to access, most biologically hostile  parts of the body.  Diistinct lack of real funding here.


No, our CDO in her massive role on that stage at NHS Expo chose to ramble on about a 2-year recall.

We may think Mr Lilley is a “bit of a plonker Rodney” but dentistry needs someone like him.

Dentistry needs a cheerleader to shout our achievements from the roof top, and remind people that nearly all of them are self-funded by dentists and not subsidised by the government at all.

Sadly, Dr Hurley has missed her vocation in the role, choosing instead to follow her Civil Service guide on “How not to rock the boat”

I wonder if there is someone out there , possibly many of you, who could cheerlead our profession? Someone who, like Mr Roy Lilley, is so noisy, so irritating as to be impossible to ignore?

Please step forwards if you are those persons ...


So it’s down to you.  Will YOU be the professions cheereleader?


Have YOU done your bit to cheerlead for our proud profession today?

If not, crack on.  Our younger colleagues will depend on it in the future.



NHS Expo Programme

The Innovate stage hosted

Sir Bruce Keogh and the Chief Professional Officers
(Main stage sessions)
10:00 - 10:50 in Innovate Stage

Sue Hill - Chief Scientific Officer
Sara Hurley - Chief Dental Officer, NHS England
Sir Bruce Keogh - National Medical Director, NHS England
Suzanne Rastrick - Chief Allied Health Professions Officer , NHS England
Keith Ridge - Chief Pharmacy Officer


Sarah Hurley responded

The origins of the something-gate language
Since the recall speech last week ["recallgate"], the profession has realised who's side she is on, who pays the salary and benefits of the CDO.

The honeymoon period is over.

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