Jason Wong named interim CDO England

Jason Wong, who has served as Deputy CDO England since June 2020, has been named as Interim Chief Dental Officer England as Sara Hurley prepares to depart from the role of CDO England at the end of June.

Sir Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, confirmed the news, stating: “Representing the entire dental profession across England, the role of the Chief Dental Officer is a joint appointment between Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England, with their base in NHS England.

“I am pleased to inform you that Jason Wong will take over from Sara on an interim basis while we recruit for a permanent replacement.”

Recruitment for a permanent CDO England will begin soon.

Eric Rooney, Deputy Chief Dental Officer England, bids farewell

England’s Deputy Chief Dental Officer, Eric Rooney, is retiring at the end of this month. In the latest NHS dentistry and oral health update, he bids farewell to the sector while reflecting on the last 12 months and his career as a whole.

“It hardly seems a year since I was working on minimising the disruption to the supply of our normal and routine dental face masks. All due to a new novel virus affecting China,” says Rooney. “As the year goes by, so come birthdays and anniversaries, and this week it’s my birthday. That’s the same, but it’s different. Not just because of social distancing and the impact of Coronavirus, but because I have reached the normal NHS retirement age!

“Just like last year, I can hardly believe how time has flown, from being a fresh faced 17 year-old entering Dundee Dental School, to this last tumultuous year. Throughout that time, the dental profession, it’s institutions, and the wider NHS have been a massive part of my work life. For the support and camaraderie of colleagues across dentistry, health and beyond, I will always be grateful, as I will for the longstanding support of my wife and family throughout my career.

“There is still much to be done to improve our NHS services, for the good of patients, the profession and the taxpayer and there will continue to be difficult times ahead, but I have every confidence in our profession and in the wider health system that together they can build a better future.”

Paying tribute to Rooney, CDO England Sara Hurley states: “It has been an incredible honour and a real pleasure to work alongside Eric Rooney as Deputy Chief Dental Officer for England. His wry, dry, humour and his humility and humanity have shaped not just the office of CDO but in the genuine warmth of his sharing of knowledge he inspires all those that have the good fortune to work alongside him. He truly cares and his quiet deliberate passion to do the right thing sets a benchmark that many aspire to, but few can claim to have achieved. Eric’s impressive CV, including an MBE for services to Dentistry in the 2015 New Year’s Honours and the plethora of national and regional achievements underline his clarity in advocacy for oral health and ensuring that patients receive the most effective dental care.  His contribution as co-author of the 2009 review of NHS Dentistry, known as “the Steele Report” and his clear thinking and evaluation of the Government’s Dental Contract Reform programme have shaped the intent for future service provision with an improved offer for patients and professionals alike.”

Eric Rooney’s career in dentistry began in 1983 and, in the words of the CDO, has seen him go from “clinical practice to public health, designing and delivering regional and national initiatives, shaping contract and commissioning policy in conjunction with the British Dental Association, Department of Health and latterly NHS England.”

CDO confirms dental professionals and their teams are now being prioritised for a Covid-19 vaccine

Following Boris Johnson’s answer in the House of Commons to Craig Whittaker MP’s question over whether dental team members in patient-facing roles would qualify as ‘health workers’ as part of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, CDO England, Sara Hurley, and deputy CDOs Eric Rooney and Jason Wong have confirmed that dental professionals and their teams are now being prioritised for a Covid-19 vaccine.

“This means that dental teams supporting the NHS, those working in private or mixed practices will all be entitled to a vaccine, this includes specialist practices and clinical dental technicians registered with the CQC,” the CDO and deputies stated. “Dental professionals who work for a NHS trust will fall within the vaccination programme co-ordinated through their trust.​ Locum clinical staff employed by the practice and non-clinical ancillary staff who may have social contact with patients but are not directly involved in patient care (e.g. receptionists and cleaners) are also included. 

“As frontline health professionals, it is important that when you are called to be vaccinated you attend. Private practices are advised to ensure their contact details with the CQC are up to date as a matter of urgency. More detail is in this bulletin.”


Dental Protection has welcomed the announcement that the Covid-19 vaccine will be rolled out to dental professionals as priority.

Raj Rattan, Dental Director at Dental Protection said: “This news will come as a relief for dental professionals across the UK, who are some of the most exposed workers to the virus. The new Covid-19 variant, which is 70% more transmissible, poses a greater threat than ever before.

“Dental professionals always put the interests of their patients first, and remain committed to providing high standards of care. Prioritising dentists and dental teams to receive the Covid-19 vaccine acknowledges the essential healthcare service they continue to provide.”

England and Scotland enter new lockdowns; dentistry ‘unaffected’

On Monday 4th January, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced that from midnight (5th January), the country would be put into a full lockdown as Coronavirus cases continue to surge. Just hours later, Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to the nation in a pre-recorded televised announcement, confirming that England too would enter a new national lockdown – one that resembled more the one from March/April 2020. The new lockdown, which sees schools once again closed in another government U-turn, will reportedly not affect dentistry – on the surface at least.

The original lockdown during the Spring of 2020 saw dental practices closed for almost three months. They were able to reopen from 8th June, although it was a slow start for many as the profession grappled with new SOP measures in efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Patient numbers remain much lower than pre-pandemic, in part due to increased fallow time.

As Scotland enters its latest lockdown, the British Dental Association (BDA) has ‘received confirmation from the Chief Dental Officer that the national lockdown from 5th January will have no impact on dentistry’. The Association has ‘argued that the full range of NHS treatments should not be available while the new virus strain continues to spread significantly. However, the Scottish Government’s position remains unchanged’ as: essential travel includes leaving home for healthcare and dentistry is deemed essential healthcare, meaning it can therefore continue under the revised restrictions announced by the First Minister. The BDA also states that ‘aesthetic treatment is not essential healthcare (and not available on the NHS) and should not be undertaken’.

Scotland’s CDO, Tom Ferris, also reiterated, via the BDA, that if a patient attends a dentist with a concern then the full range of clinical dental care should remain available to the dentist in order to manage the patient’s condition.

Meanwhile, CDO England, Sara Hurley, issued an update immediately following Boris Johnson’s announcement of England’s latest lockdown measures, confirming that ‘dental services are to remain open and see patients’.

Hurley noted that dental professionals are defined by the Government as critical workers, adding: ‘Dentistry is an essential medical service. It is a priority for the NHS. Patients are entitled to travel for medical appointments, include dental. I have included some useful resources in this bulletin for NHS practices to spread the word that dental services are open and seeing patients, please use them.’

The Government guidance on the national lockdown states: ‘The majority of public services will continue and you will be able to leave home to visit them. These include the NHS and medical services like GPs and dentists.’

The BDA also reiterated that ‘services should be carried out in line with the current standard operating procedure (SOPs) . Remote consultation, triage and risk assessment remain key prior to patient attendance for face to face dental care. Social distancing measures remain in place and PPE levels as stated for low, medium and high risk assessed patients remain.’

While dental practices remain open for business unlike last Spring, there will most likely be an impact felt as more patients opt to stay home rather than attend appointments, among other factors. Therefore, the BDA has issued an open letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, urging the government to abandon NHS targets that will be ‘impossible to achieve under the new national lockdown, and which risk putting hundreds of practices out of business’.

In addition to patients’ reluctance to continue with dental appointments, the BDA believes that ‘the NHS targets will force dentists to prioritise routine check-ups for the “worried-well” over a time-consuming urgent backlog’. MPs are set to debate the imposition of these targets at a Backbench Business debate on 14 January.

Sara Hurley: vaccination programme ‘will be a marathon, not a sprint’

In the latest NHS dentistry and oral health update from CDO England, Sara Hurley discusses the Covid-19 vaccination programme, which kicked off on Tuesday. She notes that ‘It’s important to say that while we are moving fast, this will be a marathon, not a sprint. I will keep you updated on timelines and progress and what this means for dental teams and more information is in this update.’

The update also details the appointment of Professor Rebecca Harris, Professor of Dental Public Health at Liverpool University, to the role of Deputy Chief Dental Officer, the Government’s decision that from Monday 14th December dental charges in England will be increased, the recent Healthwatch report and more.

Read the latest NHS dentistry and oral health update here.

An update from Sara Hurley, Chief Dental Officer England

Sara Hurley, Chief Dental Officer for England, sent out the following NHS dentistry and oral health update on Friday evening, 27th November:

Dear colleague,

Every week I get the statistics on my desk which show how many patients we are seeing and what type of treatments we are giving them. I’m happy to report that access is steadily increasing and the initial evidence from over the summer shows that the majority of treatments we are offering are tooth saving. 

As you will have seen, since my last update, the NHS has moved to incident Level 4 and the government has announced the tiers communities in England will be in after the period of national restrictions ends on 2nd December. Our clinical priority remains the provision of urgent dental care. As we continue the transition to recovery of services and where practice capacity allows, we would increasingly expect practices to be actively recalling patients to resume interrupted care pathways and seeking to offer appointments to patients who normally attend the practice for care in terms of their risk. 

I recognise that there is a delicate balance in meeting patients’ needs against the restrictions of COVID. However, the statistics demonstrate the great efforts of the majority of practices in providing access and addressing a wide range of patients’ dental care concerns.

November is mouth cancer awareness month so it is a good opportunity for me to remind everyone that a patient with suspected mouth cancer is in urgent need and should be prioritised for a face to face consultation.

Sandra White, Public Health England’s lead for dental health has also written an important update on the use of antibiotics. Dental professionals have done sterling work in reducing the use of unnecessary antibiotics in the last few years and we must continue to do our bit to avoid the development of antibiotic resistance.

I’m also delighted that the amazing Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise has been named the South West Regional Winner in the Health Equalities Award category of the NHS Parliamentary Awards 2020. Their local MP nominated them after seeing the excellent work the practice has done to support those who are homeless in Plymouth. More detail on their achievement is below. In these updates to you, I want to share just some of the stories which show why we should be proud of what we’re doing. If you know of a colleague who deserves a shout out (and you all will) then please do drop me a line at ocdo-cdo-exec@nhs.net.


UK CDOs issue joint letter: Supporting the dental profession throughout the second Covid-19 wave

Tom Ferris, Chief Dental Officer for Scotland, Colette Bridgman, Chief Dental Officer for Wales, Michael Donaldson, Chief Dental Officer for Northern Ireland, and Sara Hurley, Chief Dental Officer for England, have together issued an open letter addressed to colleagues, titled Supporting the dental profession throughout the second Covid-19 wave.

The letter reads as follows: 

Covid-19 has been a challenge for the entire UK population. For dental teams, we understand the impact of asking you to scale back care in March and we appreciate your sterling efforts to resume service provision to support patients. We know that you continue to work tirelessly to address the backlog of care, all driven by our profession’s enduring common motivation – to deliver the very best care for our patients through this pandemic.

Unfortunately, as we all know, COVID-19 cases are rising again and there is already sustained additional pressure on parts of the NHS. Pressure will inevitably be exacerbated by staff shortages due to sickness or caring responsibilities. Due to the actions of the whole population of all four nations the initial peak of pressure will be significantly lower than it would have been, but it may well be prolonged throughout the winter period, with wide local variation and fluctuation in cases, requiring a sustained and prolonged response from all the healthcare professions.

In partnership with patients, we want dental professionals always to use their professional judgement to assess risk and to make sure people receive safe care, informed by the values and principles set out in our professional standards. The national SOPs remain your guides throughout this next phase of the pandemic and we expect all registrants to follow GDC guidance using their judgement in applying the principles of best practice to the situations they face.

This second wave will require healthcare professionals to be flexible in what they do. We recognise that some dental professionals may find themselves working outside their usual scope of practice and this can be stressful, and you may have concerns about both the professional practicalities and implications of working in such circumstances. The healthcare professional regulators, including the GDC, have already committed to take into account factors relevant to the environment in which the professional is working, including relevant information about resources, guidelines or protocols in place at the time. The joint statement issued by the healthcare regulators in March 2020 remains extant. https://www.gmcuk.org/news/news-archive/how-we-will-continue-to-regulate-in-light-of-novel-coronavirus

We are also determined to ensure the long-term prospects of dental professionals in training are not compromised by this prolonged health crisis. The GDC, together with the education bodies in the four nations, and Dental Schools Council are working on this.

It’s also important to look after each other during this time. We want dental professionals to feel supported and cared for at work, the pandemic is a difficult time for everyone and we’re all human.

Finally, we would like to thank every single one of you for your tireless efforts to support patients. We are very proud of the response of the dental profession to this challenge.

Sara Hurley confirms NHS dental services will continue during new lockdown

Sara Hurley, Chief Dental Officer for England, has issued her latest NHS dentistry and oral health update, covering recent announcements and links to current guidance and relevant publications. 

The update has been sent out “in light of the Prime Minister’s announcement that from Thursday [5th November] England will enter a period of further national restrictions until 2 December.”

The bulletin includes confirmation from Chief Dental Officer for England that during the period of tighter restrictions dental services will remain open for face-to-face care. This includes delivery of both aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) and non-aerosol generating procedures. Dental care is to be delivered in line with the principles set out Transition to Recovery SOP published 27 Oct 2020 and with regard to the recently updated national infection prevention control and the accompanying dental appendix. Priority remains focussed on patients who require access to urgent care, patients at higher risk of oral disease, and patients with outstanding treatment needs that cannot be delayed. All dental practices should continue to provide remote consultations with triage and advice as necessary options. Dental practices will be asked to maintain their support to their local UDC system (face to face as well as remote).  Co-ordination of the local UDC system lies with the NHS Local Area Team and all practices are encouraged to remain in close contact with their area teams.  The principles for UDC systems and provision of urgent dental care are set out in the revised UDC SOP published 27 Oct 2020

The CDO explains: “The government’s guidance states that “a number of public services will also stay open and you will be able to leave home to visit them. These include […] the NHS and medical services like GPs

“I can confirm that this includes NHS dental services. Therefore, during the period of tighter restrictions practices should remain open to treat patients in line with the standard operating procedure and with regard to the recently updated national infection prevention control dental appendix. Detail on both of these were shared in last week’s update and are repeated below.”

Read more here.

New Covid-19 infection prevention and control dental guidance published

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), along with Public Health Wales (PHW), Public Health Agency (PHA) Northern Ireland, Health Protection Scotland (HPS), Public Health Scotland, Public Health England and NHS England, has released new Covid-19 infection prevention and control dental guidance.

This newly published UK IPC Guidance has been developed for dental settings, and has been considered and incorporated into the latest revision of the office of CDO’s SOPs, which will be published imminently.

Whilst this guidance seeks to ensure a consistent and resilient UK wide approach, some differences in operational details and organisational responsibilities may apply in Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland.

It is also noted that this guidance is of a general nature and that an employer should consider the specific conditions of each individual place of work and comply with all applicable legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The guidance is available to read here.

NHS England updates Urgent Dental Care Guidance and Standard Operating Procedure

NHS England and NHS Improvement have issued updates to the Urgent dental care guidance and standard operating procedure and Dental standard operating procedure: Transition to recovery documents, along with a letter from Chief Dental Officer Sara Hurley.

“It is 12 weeks since dental practices in England were able to resume face to face dental care,” Sara Hurley begins in her latest communication. “Thank you for all your efforts in broadening access to dental care and supporting the collective NHS focus on a return to full operating capability across the whole of healthcare.”

To support practices as they continue to expand the range of treatments offered, the latest Covid-19 dental guidance update incorporates validated evidence and expert consensus. These publications serve as a framework for identifying and mitigating the risks to dental staff and patients.

“Updates include: Covid-19 screening questions to be asked in line with the case definition for possible Covid-19 and isolation requirements including quarantine advice for those entering or returning to the UK,” says Hurley.

To read Sara Hurley’s letter in full, click here.

The Urgent dental care guidance and standard operating procedure can be accessed here.

The Dental standard operating procedure: Transition to recovery document can be found here.