We were thrilled to have been one of just 5 finalists in the much coveted ‘Dental Practice of the Year’ at the 23rd annual Dental Awards ceremony on Friday 28th May 2021 hosted virtually by BBC weather presenter and meteorologist Sarah Keith-Lucas. Tremendous national recognition for all that we do together on behalf of our patients, our communities and one another.
Our mission at Smile Together is to tackle oral health inequalities, creating healthier happier communities. Covering Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, we’re one of the South West’s largest NHS referral and emergency dental care providers treating c.35,000 patients a year. We provide urgent/emergency dental treatments for people who don’t have their own dentist, run out-of-hours surgeries and apply expert skills to treat children and adults with a range of special care needs alongside oral surgery, children’s orthodontics and treatments under general anaesthetic in a hospital setting. We also provide NHS and competitively-priced private dentistry from practices based in the heart of their communities.
As an employee-owned community interest company we reinvest our profits back into patient facilities and our community – a notable £6 million since 2016! Our team (99% opted-in shareholders) have a genuine voice in service delivery and business development. For example, our teams have felt very strongly about:
- Tackling decay levels by better educating children – consequently our Brighter Smiles campaign delivers practical tooth-brushing clubs, fluoride varnishing and oral health education to around 4,500 children each year in areas of high decay
- Reaching further into Cornish communities – our Smiles At Sea initiative sees us visiting harboursides across Cornwall and Devon each year to treat and provide oral health advice to fishermen who rarely visit a dentist due to the demands of their work. We’ve donated thousands of oral health items to local Foodbanks and homelessness charities with colleagues encouraged to build their own sustainable local connections for future donations
- Improving patient facilities – we purchased and renovated a derelict former grammar school into a brand-new, purpose-designed accessible dental centre, transforming provision in Cornwall for patients who need us most. Opened May 2019 our Harleigh Road Dental Centre attracted £1m social investment from Big Issue Invest (winning SEUK Social Investment Deal of the Year) and was chosen by NHS England as Cornwall’s first Urgent Dental Care Hub (UDCH) during Covid-19. We began treating patients days ahead of schedule and our team still coordinate UDCH referrals for the whole county as we progress back to practice
We were runner-up “Outstanding Team during COVID-19” on National Dental Nurses Day 2020 recognising our achievement in operationalising four Hubs in line with constantly evolving national COVID-19 guidance. From monitoring developments and coordinating PPE fit testing to instigating and developing complex Standard Operating Procedures and policies necessary for safe, smooth operation for our patients and our people, our team have worked tirelessly to ensure safe, efficient and compliant patient care.
Our clinical success is underpinned by strong leadership and competent, innovative professional support – from agile IT enabling colleagues to work from home in a matter of days and tight financial control and information governance, to timely consistent communications, a bespoke Training Academy and Performance Management System, and flexible HR support for those experiencing personal challenges during the pandemic.
Employee-engagement in our continuous Service Improvement Programme and through our Shareholder Impact Board of elected representatives ensures everyone can contribute. A colleague recently said: “You don’t have to shout to be heard in Smile Together”.
According to Managing Director Paul Critchley: “We’ve always been an innovative, ambitious and pioneering practice and the pandemic has brought this very sharply into focus. There are significant inequalities in access to dental care in Cornwall so collectively we’ve sought new ways to support and treat as many patients as possible, continuously improving our services and finding efficiencies so that we can make an even bigger difference to more people in the heart of rural and coastal Cornish communities. Every team member has adapted quickly and confidently, worked well under pressure to deliver over and above in their role, proactively supporting one other whilst keeping themselves, their colleagues and patients safe. Even in these difficult times, we’re finding ways to deliver patient care above our NHS England targets. It’s been an extraordinary team effort and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone for so clearly demonstrating our values – to be bold, generous, authentic and inspirational – at such a challenging time. To have this exceptional sustained commitment recognised in this way is just fantastic”.
According to one dental nurse: “Having only been in this company for just over a year when this [pandemic] happened, I cannot express the comfort and admiration that I feel being part of such an amazing team of hard working and dedicated nurses and colleagues”.
When Sara Hurley, Chief Dental Officer for England and Deputy Strategic Commander COVID-19 NHS England and NHS Improvement followed up a telephone call with Marc Pay in our Call Centre she said: “I rang your call centre this morning and spoke at length to Marc about the Urgent Dental Care call handling and referral service you are running and the access to your Bodmin clinic. I would like to extend my gratitude to all those in the team who are supporting the UDC service and no doubt facing some tough calls. Your commitment is really appreciated and we couldn’t do this without you, the service to patients and the public is so valuable. I remain very grateful to you and all those who have stepped forward to assist the SW population and the Regional Director, the Medical Director and local commissioning team.”
And our patients are equally glowing about the care we deliver – here’s just a few of their testimonials from the last year or so:
5* Google review: “I had my molar extracted last Wednesday after a long year of being in discomfort from a decayed tooth after suffering a crack in it. I haven’t been to the dentist in 15 years due to being a little scared. I honestly cannot recommend this dental practice enough! Right from the start the lovely lady that collected me from outside the entrance was welcoming and asked how I was. I mentioned I was a little nervous and she calmed my nerves immediately. From the moment I sat down in the waiting room, she and her colleague (both on reception) had me chatting about my family and Christmas plans which really helped calm me down. Then I walked into the room where I was having the extraction and Paula the dentist, and Sarah her assistant were waiting for me. They were both so welcoming and friendly too! By the end of it all we were laughing hysterically and singing Christmas songs. If any of you read this, I would very much love to personally thank you! I am no longer scared of the dentist and if I can get on your waiting list I will try my best. Top notch customer service is often something that is sadly overlooked these days, but you guys smashed it out of the park! Well done!”
Facebook review: “My son during covid-19 had to have an extraction he’s only 8. The care that was given was outstanding!! They made my son feel at ease and were amazing at explaining what was happening at a child’s level. They were all so calm you would never have known it was in an extremely stressful time! My son left with no worries at all and in his words ” he feels great” – thank you is not enough!!”
Patient email: “I’ve just finished treatment with the team at Penzance. I wanted to say just how much I appreciate having such a brilliant dentist and team! The service was 1st class (friendly and professional) – I felt very safe with all the Covid-19 precautions put in place and my treatment was delivered with the utmost care and expertise. I feel so lucky to have an NHS dentist – and a top quality practice!”
We were also thrilled to see Katie Rowe crowned Dental Nurse of the Year 2021 in the Dental Awards and to be a finalist in the Practice Decontamination Award – a great hat trick of recognition!