A world first
The creation of the Dundee Dental Hospital & Research School has been announced
On a bright autumn morning recently, staff at Dundee Dental Hospital & School gathered in a room on the ground floor of the school’s 10-storey building in Park Place – the adjacent terraced housing of which served as the location of the institution’s founding in 1916 – where they were joined by representatives of NHS Tayside, NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and the Scottish Government.
They were there to announce a collaboration between the University of Dundee, NHS Tayside and NES that aims to transform the delivery of oral healthcare.
The first of its kind in the world, the Dundee Dental Hospital & Research School (DDHRS) aims to embed research or quality improvement in every activity, patient contact and process undertaken – with the goal of “ensuring effective, sustainable and inclusive care”.
The Dental Hospital & School has served Tayside for more than 100 years, with around three million patient attendances to date. It is unique as a dental institution because of the creative, and effective, partnership between the University, NHS Tayside and NES.
Together, they offer innovation and quality in education and research, and the training of dentists, hygiene-therapists, dental nurses, clinical academics and dental post-graduates from around the world.
Building on this, the Dundee Dental Hospital & Research School will see patients invited to participate in a variety of projects designed to provide service improvement, with the aspiration that every patient contact will contribute to service development, clinical teaching and research.
The pillars of activity will be effective care, environmental sustainability and social inclusion – all contributing positively to learning and teaching as well as innovation, research for impact and social purpose.
The team behind the initiative said they will seek to involve all staff, students, patients and the public in the co-design and co-delivery through partnership and collaborative working across the NHS and the university. The aim is to invite all patients attending the hospital to have active involvement in service improvement through research and quality improvement activities, where possible.
This will enable the hospital to deliver effective care in a sustainable way and to reach out to vulnerable groups, with a focus on providing inclusive healthcare. It also aims to develop processes that will allow for agility in clinical research, reducing the current lag between conception delivery and implementation of findings.
Its vision is that, by 2027, the DDHRS will be “globally recognised as being transformative in delivering sustainable, socially inclusive and research-led oral healthcare for the population of Tayside”. Students will be “recognised as talented contributors to improving oral health and wellbeing both locally and globally and working towards solving contemporary global challenges in delivering healthcare”.
It aims to partner with world-leading companies, such as Dentsply Sirona who played a key role in the recent physical transformation of the school.
Co-design will be key in the short, medium and long term, said the team. The aim is to establish a Patient and Public Involvement group to support multiple projects, including the development phase of the DDHRS, grant funded projects and those for specific vulnerable groups, such as those with experience of drug addiction or homelessness, and people with experience of head and neck cancer.
It is anticipated these groups will have a Scotland-wide relevance and reach. To overcome the physical constraints of the DDHRS building – which can limit access or add to patients’ anxiety associated with dental treatment – the intention is to co-design a ‘hub and spoke’ structure, working alongside vulnerable groups in the community.
Delivering the vision
This is the genesis of a new concept in dentistry; a dental hospital and school where research or quality improvement is embedded in every activity, patient contact and process undertaken. Patients will not only attend for treatment but will be informed of, and invited to participate in, a variety of projects designed to provide service improvement.
In doing so, this will not only increase the institution’s innovation and research impact but enhance the already positive and close relationship between NHS Tayside, the University of Dundee, NES and the local community.
The initiative will serve to underpin how dentistry can become more sustainable and for dental teaching hospitals to be “anchor institutions in the transition to beacons of environmentally friendly and sustainable oral and dental healthcare for generations to come”.
Professor Jan Clarkson, Associate Dean Research in the School of Dentistry at the University of Dundee, said: “By combining the very best of the three institutions – the University of Dundee, NHS Tayside and NHS Education for Scotland, we aim to build on our great innovation and quality with a new approach that will place Dundee at the forefront of oral health research, education and treatment.”
National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch commented: “The Scottish Government welcomes this innovative approach to oral health care in Scotland.
“Collaborations such as this will help ensure oral health care research shapes the high-quality treatment of patients in the future.”
Professor David Felix, Director of Dentistry at NES, added: “The collaboration will give all students, patients and team members the opportunity to be involved in research or quality improvement.
“This experience and training will ensure our graduating dental professionals will be ready to take this into clinical practice understanding the importance of continuous improvement throughout their lives.”
Professor Grant Archibald, Chief Executive of NHS Tayside, said: “This exciting development is continuing to build on our strong relationship with the University of Dundee and NHS Education for Scotland to provide the very best care to the patients of Tayside.
“Research is a vital part of service improvement, and the Dundee Dental Hospital and Research School will work with patients to improve treatment delivery now and into the future.”
Building on the history of the Dental Hospital and School, the DDHRSís mission will continue to be to transform lives through the creation, sharing and application of knowledge, through:
- Preparing our students to be outstanding dental practitioners and potential future leaders with research activity underpinning their future careers.
- Using innovation, research and education to stimulate and sustain improved population oral health and patient care for future generations.
- Influencing policy and practice in oral and dental healthcare.
- Embracing the net zero agenda and delivering sustainable dentistry by 2030.
- Delivering inclusive dental care for vulnerable groups.
People and environment
The School of Dentistry is research active ñ with around 350 undergraduate students, 50 postgraduate students and 100 members of staff. The dental hospital has 150 staff and is the largest single outpatient facility in Tayside. Dundee Dental Education Centre is the site of tripartite (UoD, NHS, NES) accommodation and home to NES postgraduate training and the Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme (SDCEP), the NICE-accredited developers of UK-wide guidance.
Within the dental hospital, all 13 dental specialties are provided as well as multidisciplinary care for patients with complex needs. A full range of clinical facilities are available comprising 100 dental chairs, a full radiological suite including cone beam CT, ultrasound and saliva gland imaging, medical photography including 2D and 3D photography and high-quality dental laboratories with a range of innovative digital dentistry and CAD-CAM facilities. Outreach services are provided at Ninewells Hospital and in Perth and Arbroath to serve the needs of these populations.
One of the novel principles of the research dental hospital and school will be that consent to participate in research will be assumed at the point of contact, with an opt-out being available for patients who do not wish their clinical information or personal information used. The current permission that was obtained for the Orthodontic Department (and recently renewed) entering every patient contact into research will be extended across the Hospital Dental Service.
Work is ongoing to introduce electronic patient records which will assist with obtaining patient consent to participate in research and service development. This will also provide longitudinal health and treatment data. The ambition is to increase the amount of digital dentistry with the clinical service becoming less reliant on natural resources through the development of a paper-free electronic patient record and to use of less plaster within the dental laboratories. Medical photography and dental radiology have already gone paper and film-free with digital storage and communication systems.
NHS Tayside’s digital transformation of patient appointment systems, triage and consultation was developed during the pandemic and is ongoing. The University of Dundeeís ambition to transform into a truly digital community will enable the expansion of the current developments in digital dental teaching and learning. NHS Education for Scotland is also transforming the delivery, accessibility and digital content of educational material.
Working with partners
Working with external partners will be important in realising the initiative’s ambition and impact. The team is engaging with Dundee City Council, in particular, the planned Life Sciences Innovation District collaboration, Eden Trust and the Dundee Climate Change Leaders Group. The Eden Project Dundee will go live in 2024 and one of the key ‘guilds’ will focus on ‘healers’ With Dundee’s rich history in healthcare the inclusion of oral health in this will be explored. Partnerships with the dental industry will also be explored for developments in the sustainability and delivery of clinical research. The new institution will partner with third-sector organisations to assist with social inclusion and support meaningful social purpose.