MPS Foundation funds major study into dental patients’ anxiety triggers

The MPS Foundation is funding research which aims to develop interventions for patients who suffer from extreme anxiety when visiting the dentist.

The AngST project will see experts in dentistry and filmmaking at the University of Plymouth working in tandem to assess and then develop ways to manage dental anxiety. It will also offer a novel approach to detecting subtle signs or “tells” of anxiety in the dental clinic by building a partnership between patients, clinicians, filmmakers, ethnographers, researchers, and the public.

The project is one of ten awarded funding, out of over 150 expressions of interest received, in the first research grant programme of the MPS Foundation. Medical Protection Society (MPS) – of which Dental Protection is part – launched the MPS Foundation last year with the aim to create sustainable global change through ambitious research focussed on patient safety and the wellbeing of healthcare professionals and teams.

The task builds on a decade of work by researchers from the University’s Transtechnology Research Group and colleagues at the South Devon and Torbay NHS Hospital Trust. It will see a pilot study conducted using video recordings of dental treatment, which will be used to analyse patients’ emotional experiences during dental visits.

A methodology for filming in the dental clinic will be refined and documented and used to produce a toolkit for reflexive training of dental clinicians that can be used beyond dental practice. This will enable the researchers to design and pilot a training model that will enhance the ability of junior dentists, clinical staff, and patients themselves to be sensitive to the emergence of anxiety in the dental clinic.

The ultimate aim of the project will be to encourage all the parties to respond in a way that helps to reduce anxiety, and thereby improves the provision and take-up of dental care and the wellbeing of dentists.

Dr Graham Stokes, dentist and MPS Foundation Chair, said: “Dentists face the challenging task of responding to their patients’ anxieties while being under serious pressure themselves. In the case of newly qualified dentists, they are possibly also anxious about ensuring they provide their patients with a high level of care. Current ways to help anxiety are only moderately effective, and few have been developed together with patients or clinicians.

“Until now, funding for critical research like this has been limited, but is now taking place through the MPS Foundation. As a global not-for-profit research initiative, we aim to take non-clinical research in a new direction and transform the future of patient safety.”

Professor Mona Nasser, Professor in Clinical Epidemiology and Oral Health Research at the University of Plymouth, is leading the AngST project. She said: “With the dental profession under more pressure than ever, this project could not be more timely. For many people, just the thought of going to the dentist evokes all manner of anxieties that they choose to avoid.

“That can lead to dental issues going unmanaged, and ultimately results in a number of wider health complications. It is therefore essential for us to find better ways of managing people’s anxieties, and give clinicians and patients themselves the tools to manage them.”

The second MPS Foundation grant application window is open. Calls for expressions of interest close on 5 May 2023. Healthcare professionals can register their interest by visiting and entering their details via the online grant portal.

BDA heralds potential breakthrough on GDPR

Following months of lobbying the British Dental Association has welcomed news that Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine has tabled its suggested amendments [1] to the Data Protection Bill to save primary care providers from needless financial burdens.

The simple change would specifically exempt small NHS providers from the costly burden of appointing a dedicated Data Protection Officer (DPO). The BDA has been working closely with partners at the Optical Confederation, the National Pharmacy Association and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, urging both government and opposition MPs to exempt dentists, pharmacists and opticians from this expensive and unnecessary new requirement.

Primary care leaders have argued that the current draft Bill goes well beyond the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which does not require health providers to appoint a DPO unless they process healthcare data “on a large scale”.

Most high street NHS primary care providers do not process data on a large scale, but are set to be covered by this onerous new duty by virtue of being defined by UK legislation as “public bodies”. The BDA has estimated that outsourcing this service may well cost even the smallest practices in excess of £5,000, with some members reporting quotes from potential contractors of over £10,000 a year. Amendments will be considered at the Bill’s Report Stage, which is likely to take place in the second week of May [2].

News comes as primary care leaders have written again to the Department for Culture Media and Sport, urging Secretary of State Matt Hancock to change tack.

BDA Chair, Mick Armstrong, said: “We have been making the argument for a simple amendment that would protect small NHS providers who were never meant to be captured by these regulations.

“We want to thank Christine Jardine MP for her support. This common sense move wouldn’t cost taxpayers a penny, is non-controversial and nonpartisan, and remains entirely consistent with the stated intentions of the GDPR.

“This small change can make a big difference, saving hard-pressed high street health providers from needless pain. Together with our partners across primary care we urge parliamentarians on both sides of the house to offer their support.”


Clause 7, page 5, line 24, after “subsections” insert “(1A),”.                                                  

Clause 7, page 5, line 24, at end insert—


A primary care service provider is not a “public authority” or “public body” for the purposes of the GDPR merely by virtue of the fact that it is defined as a public authority by either—

(a) any of paragraphs 43A to 45A or paragraph 51 of Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information Act 2000, or

(b) any of paragraphs 33 to 35 of Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (asp 13).”