Students Staff

14 February 2014

Chief Dental Officer praises Essex approach

Stephen Welfare, Dr Philip Cannell and Barry Cockcroft CBE with dental therapist student Mehli Ganjvar

Chief Dental Officer Barry Cockcroft CBE and Managing Director of Health Education East of England Stephen Welfare came to the Southend Campus to see how the University of Essex is leading the way on dental health education.

They dropped-in to Benfleet Dental Studio to see how Oral Health Science students were learning through work-based placements and then went on to the University of Essex’s Southend Campus to see facilities including The Forum and the Dental Skills Lab, talk to students and hear more from academics.

Mr Cockcroft said: "It's been great to experience education of the wider dental team in action; both within the dental practice setting and at the University, and to appreciate how these two forms of learning complement each other at Essex. The students' enthusiasm and how they see their role in the development of better services for patients is extremely encouraging."

The University of Essex is seen as a pioneer in the UK and already delivers the largest hygienist programme in the country with 39 students currently training at the Southend Campus. Essex academics are also establishing a number of cutting-edge courses thanks to support from the Health Education East of England and the NHS. The programmes are responding to the national strategy for NHS dental services being piloted at the moment and set to be introduced from 2015, which will look to use the skills of dental hygienists and therapists much more than they are at the moment.

Senior Lecturer Dr Phillip Cannell, who is a partner at Chalkwell Dental Practice in Leigh on Sea and leads the Oral Health Science programme, led the visit with colleague Sarah Murray and Dean of Health, Professor Jo Jackson.

He said: "We were really pleased to explain how we have created a vibrant and incredibly popular hygienist programme which is now the biggest in the UK and has just been opened up to international students. We have worked hard to develop courses which help students develop the skills they need to make an effective contribution to patient care. As part of this we’ve launched the hygienist adaptation module for dental hygienists coming from overseas who need to develop further skills to allow them to register with the General Dental Council.

"Importantly we have also recently commenced a degree programme which allows hygienists to use their existing place of work as their work placement so they can study to become a dental therapist without having a complete break from employment. We have also launched a module for dental therapists who want to reskill and come back into the sector.

"Our approach is significantly different to others in the sector because we are very much about using real-world work placements to provide learning experiences for students in our programmes. It helps develop graduates who are fit for purpose and highly employable. Our success is shown by the fact we have achieved a 100% employability rate for all our graduates since our first graduation in 2009. Our expansion as a University in this area is very timely as it responds to the national agenda for NHS dental services."

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