The last few months have been very busy, both with getting ready for finals, as well as trying to complete patients’ treatments and transfer others to other students. However I was able to meet with Barry in January when he invited me to the National Steering Group meeting at the Department of Health/NHS England in London. There have been many changes within the NHS in the last year, with numerous ‘local professional networks’ having been set up to provide feedback on local services. The National Steering Group communicates between these and NHS England, as well as monitoring the pilot sites for the new dental contract. These meetings are very important in determining the direction that NHS dentistry will take for many years to come and so it was great to be able to observe it. It also gave me the chance to meet other people playing important roles in these developments, such as Professor Jimmy Steele who led the independent review of NHS dentistry several years ago and is now helping the attempt to improve quality of care for patients without reducing access to dentistry.
Watching Barry in his daily life showed a very different side to the clinical aspects of dentistry that I’m familiar with. I was able to observe several other, some more informal, meetings that Barry had scheduled that day, and it made me appreciate the amount of communication and work that needs to take place within different departments/groups in order to be able to make changes and improve even one part of the NHS.
Since then I have kept Barry updated about my application and offer of a foundation training place in September and am now aiming to meet him again in June to catch up and for a meeting of the National Dental Commissioning Group. So far I have very much enjoyed the experience, and despite both being very busy it has been good to make time to see the ‘behind the scenes’ of the NHS and has helped develop my understanding of the profession I am entering.