Gabriela Pueyo became General Manager of Bupa Dental Care, which runs more than 470 practices in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, in November 2018. To mark World Oral Health Day this week, she shared her aspirations for the future of Bupa Dental Care, some of the industry’s challenges, and what she is most excited about this year.
What are your aspirations for Bupa Dental Care?
As one of the UK’s largest providers of dentistry, I want our patients to trust us; I want them to know and feel that Bupa is where they can get quality, affordable dental care today and into the future, because we are here for the long term. We also want Bupa to be a place people love to work and where dental professionals develop and build their careers, with clear career pathways.
While we have ambitious growth plans, it’s really important that we ensure all of our practices, including those we are bringing on board, share our high standards, so we are consistently seen to provide the high-quality of care our patients expect, in the right environment.
What challenges are you currently facing in dentistry?
Resourcing of staff remains a challenge which affects access to care for patients across the UK. There are parts of the country that simply don’t have sufficient access to dentists. With a range of NHS and private practices in our business, we are committed to delivering our NHS obligations while supporting our associate dentists with building their private books.
Naturally, one of our key areas of focus is creating appealing opportunities for dentists to work across the whole of our business, whether that be in cities or rural communities, and I hope we can play our part in supporting access to dental care across the UK. We’re doing this by developing clear career pathways for all our practice positions, so we have a clear structure for all employed staff, as well as our dentists, to enable them to see how they can progress.
What are you most excited about for 2019?
I am really excited about developing our Practice of the Future and rolling it out across our network. An important component of this is upgrading our IT systems to benefit our customers as well as our people. The new system will be cloud based and will enhance our customer experience and digital accessibility, eliminate paper, increase our cyber security and information security, as well as provide much greater flexibility to our staff and customers. For example, if our customers ever have to go to another Bupa practice because they are on a trip and have an emergency, all their clinical information will be readily available anywhere across the UK. The Practice of the Future will also involve a multi-year refurbishment and maintenance programme for our clinics. In 2019 we will carry out the assessment of all our clinics and begin the refurbishment programme.
According to figures from The Royal College of Surgeons last month, 58% of children under the age of four did not see a dentist last year. What is Bupa Dental Care doing to raise awareness of the importance of oral health?
Many parents don’t realise that children should begin seeing their dentist as soon as their first teeth start coming through. By doing so dentists can not only spot any early warning signs, but also ensure that children grow up feeling comfortable with and used to regular visits, promoting long-term good oral health.
The latest figures from the NHS show that over 45,000 under-18s were admitted to hospital in England for tooth extractions in 2017-18. However, the leading causes for dental diseases – such as diet and poor oral care – are entirely preventable.
There is a real need to improve preventative measures, including promoting children’s oral health. Our dental practices across the UK are working at a local level to engage children, with dental nurses, hygienists and dentists regularly visiting local schools and nurseries. During these sessions they teach children how to take care of their teeth, how different foods can impact their oral health, and how to limit sugar consumption.
In addition to the work carried out by practices locally, Bupa Dental Care is also involved in the Smile4life campaign – an NHS initiative to improve access to dental health provision. A key part of Smile4life is the Starting Well scheme, which aims to encourage young children in areas with the poorest oral health to visit their local surgery more frequently.
Any final thoughts?
It’s important to remember oral health is just as important for adults and encouraging good habits from childhood helps ensure they are carried through to adulthood. Your oral health impacts more than just your mouth, it can also affect your general health and wellbeing. Gum disease is a common problem, typically caused by bacteria from plaque build-up. However, unlike toothache or sensitivity, it doesn’t always cause pain or discomfort, meaning it can be harder for people to spot. Gum disease has also been linked with conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s. That’s why regular visits to the dentist throughout our lives are so important.