SPONSORED: Bringing military structure and process to dentistry


Sarah Ramage

Sarah Ramage is doing a lot of listening. Formerly Chief Dental Officer for Defence in the British military, her new job requires the same leadership qualities, with responsibility for many more locations and personnel. Bupa’s UK dental division incorporates more than 470 surgeries, employs more than 2,000 dentists and provides both NHS and private care, mostly in mixed practices. Sarah’s immediate focus is to help attract the best talent to Bupa, retain them by building a supportive working culture and provide clear career pathways that help clinicians grow within the business.

What are your priorities?

My priorities are to ensure that we deliver quality care for patients, while becoming the number one place for dentists and employees to build their careers. I want to be more forward leaning in terms of technology. We’re introducing a system so all our practices can share patient records instantly. I’m really excited about this as it’ll help us provide a seamless service for colleagues and our patients, wherever they visit us.

What are your key challenges?

Recruitment has long been an issue in dentistry, so we’re focusing on recruiting people with potential and helping them grow their career with us. We have several strategies to help make us stand out as the workplace of choice. We’ve made a clear commitment to training and development. This includes apprenticeships for dental nurses and technicians, career pathways for all staff, investment in technology and improvements in practice environments. This underpins retention, which is another priority. I’m  spending a lot of time listening to colleagues to find out what they love about Bupa, and what we can improve.

What sort of support does Bupa Dental Care offer to its colleagues?

We have a great network of people who are all committed to making our staff feel like they are part of the Bupa family and building clinical engagement. My direct team consists of four regional heads and a group of 24 RCSAs (Regional Clinical Services Advisors). They take time to provide colleague-to colleague mentoring. We are creating opportunities for clinicians to develop their skills across the board. For instance, as part of a new partnership with Align to roll out Invisalign and iTtero scanners across the network, we’ve agreed a bespoke training package to help people optimize their time in practice. We’re also developing robust career pathways for dentists to help them grow in the way they want — whether they choose to be a general dentist working in the NHS, the private sector or a combination of both. Likewise, we can show clear progression routes to enhancing skills in other areas such as orthodontics and implants, or into management positions. We’re creating opportunities for specialisation across the board, for instance providing courses in implant or sedation dentistry. We know this is well received. We are also focused on building our dental teams, providing  learning and development for dental care professionals as well as dentists. It’s reassuring to see support available at all levels. For example, our Practice Manager Academy helps identify talented colleagues and fast-track them into management roles.

What have you learned in your first few weeks in the job?

I set out to find out what our teams are doing really well and what they would like to do better. I want us all to recognise and share what ‘good’ looks like. It’s been a voyage of discovery. We have some very talented people in our business. In Glasgow I discovered a dentist who, with his wife, runs a study club and courses for dentists in the area. They have internationally renowned speakers delivering lectures and courses; this is an example of something I would like to replicate across the entire Bupa network.

How did your appointment with Bupa Dental Care come about?

A retired colleague told me about the job and encouraged me to apply. I had loved being in the military for 24 years, but knew that, if I wanted to stay in dentistry, my next role had to be outside the military. I truly believe this is the best job in dentistry; working for the second largest provider in the UK and being associated with such a trusted brand. It was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

What do you bring to the job?

My previous job was largely strategic leadership and management of dentistry and it was a great grounding. Structure and process were priorities in the military, and you had to be good at planning and always two steps ahead. I am not just thinking about the here and now, but also about Bupa Dental Care’s future strategic direction.

What does success look like?

For Bupa Dental Care to be recognized as the most trusted provider of dental care in the UK and Ireland, with our people and patients at the heart of everything we do. We want to be the workplace of choice for people who then stay and grow with Bupa, coupled with being known by patients as offering an excellent quality of NHS and private dental care. The bar is
already high but I’m excited to do more.


Bupa Dental Care

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