Looking to the future
Despite his softly spoken and unassuming demeanour, Andrew Lamb is not one to shirk the tough decisions. Even so, he acknowledges that his decision to step down as national director of the BDA in Scotland after nearly a decade in the hotseat was one of the most difficult he has ever made.
He said: “I didn’t want to leave the BDA. I thoroughly enjoyed my time, right up until the day I left, actually.
“But I really do think it is easy to carry on doing that and I think the hard decision is to make a break and go off and do all the things that you have always wanted to do.”
Born and brought up in Surrey, Andrew’s parents moved to Glasgow when he was 16. With a doctor for a father and a nurse for a mother, choosing a career in medicine was maybe not a huge surprise, but Andrew revealed that he wasn’t particularly interested in being a medical doctor.
He said: “I was always keen on helping people and I didn’t really want to be a doctor, so I decided on dentistry. It was a profession where you could practise manual skills, treat and look after people, and I preferred that in my mind to ever wanting to be a doctor.”
Andrew graduated from Glasgow Dental School in 1972 and stayed on at the hospital, firstly as a house officer, then a registrar, before being offered a lecturing role in prosthodontics in 1976. He then completed his postgraduate training at Glasgow, becoming a senior lecturer in 1984.
With that role, Andrew became an honorary consultant and he explained that he revelled in the variety the role offered. He said:’One thing I especially enjoyed was the contact with the students. There was a great sense of satisfaction involved with putting over whatever skills you have.
“I also very much enjoyed dealing with patients who had real problems and who had been referred in by general dentists. It was very satisfying treating those people and treating them successfully.”
From there, he completed his doctorate in dental surgery in 1990, a combination of restorative dentistry and oral medicine. The topic he chose was burning mouth syndrome (BMS), as he explained: “The cause of BMS is multifactorial it can be a problem related to the tissues themselves on which dentures sit or it could be the dentures themselves that are causing the problems. It was a very interesting time in my life and I enjoyed that.”
In 1995, Andrew was appointed the associate dean for dental education in the dental school in Glasgow, a role he held for five years. Then, in 2002, the BDA’s Scottish secretary Alastair MacLean announced his retirement and Andrew applied for the role.
A member of the BDA since his student days, Andrew became the University of Glasgow’s representative on the association’s academic committee in 1982, becoming chairman in 1997, which meant he became a member of the BDA’s UK Council. At the time of Alastair MacLean’s retirement, Andrew had already decided to retire from the university to seek a new challenge. So, the timing was perfect and he was appointed national director for Scotland in 2003.
When asked what he felt his biggest achievement was during his time in office, he said: “This is a really difficult question because an awful lot of what you do within the BDA is long term. I think the biggest achievement that I feel I have made is building up good working relationships with the Scottish Government.
“Now, this doesn’t mean we always got our way with the Scottish Government, but I think we developed good relationships with both politicians and civil servants.
“I think part of the secret is down to networking with them when they were in opposition. I think it is often easier to meet with and converse with MSPs in opposition. But I’ve met with politicians from all parties and I think the working relationships we have are considerably better than they were a few years ago.
“But it was not just me – it was very much a team effort. We worked very closely with the elected members, the committee members and also the other staff members within the BDA to develop and maintain those relationships.”
Not long after Andrew joined the BDA, the Scottish Government consulted on the way forward for both adult and children’s dentistry, a consultation that became the Dental Action Plan in 2005. Andrew said: “It was a pretty radical plan – it made some major changes to the way the dental services in Scotland were delivered, and the way that they were funded.
“The Lib-Lab coalition invested substantial sums of money at that time – from a baseline funding of about £200 million in 2005, three years later it was £350m. The current Government, since coming into office in 2007, has continued to fund dentistry and, indeed, the funding for dentistry is now just under £400m.
“So, in six years we have seen the spend on dentistry double and an increase in the numbers of dentists working in Scotland.”
Andrew explained that the initial challenge for him and his team was to respond to the consultation and ensure that the way the money was delivered to dentists to provide dental services was as effective as it possibly could be.
He said: “One of the biggest challenges was the way that dentists were deemed to be committed to the NHS and we had a lot of negotiations around the measure of commitment to the NHS, which determined dentists’ ability to access the General Dental Practice Allowance (GDPA). We saw this as a priority to keep people who want to work within the NHS in viable practices.
“The viability of NHS dental practices is very much down to the GDPA and the BDA is committed to try to preserve that as much as it possibly can. At the moment, as we go through difficult financial times as a country in general, we have been making sure that the GDPA was high on the agenda.”
When Scottish Dental spoke to Andrew, his successor hadn’t been announced (see below), but he said that whoever came in would need to focus on maintaining relationships.
He said: “ think it is an exciting time for the BDA in Scotland, with a new person coming in perhaps with different ideas, different thoughts and maybe a different focus.
“But if I was to offer one piece of advice, the main thing I would say is to make sure that they build up the relationships between the various stakeholders in Scotland, build on the working relationships that the BDA already has. There may be other working relationships that they think are important as well. It is important to build on these and recognise that change can take time.”
But why did he decide to retire now? Andrew said: “I’m 63 next year, I reckon I’m reasonably fit and there are plenty of things in life that I want to do. I very much enjoy hill walking, I want to keep fit, I have grandchildren who I want to spend time with and I think it is time to move on to the next phase of my life.
“And, as Peter Ward [the BDA’s chief executive] said, it is better to leave a job when you are enjoying it rather than carrying on until you maybe stop enjoying it. I think on that basis it was the right decision to make.
“I was sad to leave and sad to leave the people I worked with, but I’m now looking forward to the rest of my life.”
BDA announces Pat Kilpatrick to take over as national director for Scotland
The British Dental Association (BDA) in Scotland has recently announced Andrew’s replacement as national director, Pat Kilpatrick, who will take up the post in the new year.
Graduating from the University of Dundee, Pat joined the Graduate Training Scheme for NHS management before going on to senior roles within NHS Scotland, including director of clinical development at NHS Argyll and Clyde and director of planning at North Glasgow University Hospitals Trust. She led the National Task Force on the development of Primary Care Trusts in Scotland in 1997.
As academic director in the School of Management at the University of Stirling, she developed the first MBA postgraduate degree programme designed to develop the management skills of both doctors and dentists.
Latterly, her career has been in consulting. She joined Tribal Consulting in 2006 as a director, before going on to launch her own business in 2010.
Pat said: “Dentistry in Scotland faces a complex set of challenges. I look forward to playing my part in helping the profession overcome them and advancing the cause of oral health in Scotland.”