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A career in dental politics in Northern Ireland

Blog Author Philip Henderson

Blog Date 06/12/2018

My path engaging with dental politics began in the early 1980s, when I attended the Eastern Area Local Dental Committee meetings. I was asked to attend the annual UK LDC meeting in London, and thus my long career in standing a representative for the profession, and for the BDA.

I worked my way up through the LDC secretary and Chair, to Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee, again as Secretary and Chair, and onwards to the General Dental Practice Committee, and their Executive.

I was also very involved with the then CSA (BSO), Eastern Area Advisory Committee and Central Dental Advisory Committee and sat in with the medics as observer on BMA General Practice committee.

During my time, I have always tried to be an advocate for our wide range of dentists, fighting for better pay, terms and conditions, arguing for reformed contracts, that lift the burden of regulation from dentists, and reduce stress levels for those working on the frontline.

In Northern Ireland, successive studies are showing that the levels of morale and motivation are following a downward trend, which is not good news for practitioners, nor their patients.


This is an argument that we will continue to repeat, and hope that government and our commissioners start taking seriously.

Over 20 years ago, I helped to set up the zero to six-years old "Treasure Baby Teeth" initiative from the Eastern Board, and despite some inroads into improving oral health for our children, we are still facing huge challenges to ensure prevention and to break down the wide oral health inequalities people are experiencing.  

In 2006, I started chairing negotiations for a new dental contract for Northern Ireland – frustratingly, negotiations are still ongoing today with no obvious implementation date in view – but your current representatives will keep pushing on this.

I was honoured to be elected to the reformed Principal Executive Committee (the BDA's board) and I have served two terms. 

It was quite humbling to become one only 15 directors of the BDA, with responsibility for overseeing the strategic direction of the organisation and steering our path. My role has included working with BDA staff and attending craft committee meetings, including the Northern Ireland Salaried Dental Committee.

Despite our calls for implementation, our salaried colleagues are still waiting for the 2015 new terms and conditions that were agreed with then Assembly. Again, this is something that has not been forgotten, and your representatives continue to make the case for dentistry.

Part of my role on the PEC was attending the annual BDA Dental Conference and Exhibition, including chairing lectures, networking, looking after exhibitors and generally making sure the days went smoothly.

I was delighted to be included in the BDA's round of Honours and Awards in 2016, with a Distinguished Membership. 

Making way for other experienced representatives, I decided not to stand for PEC this year, but I plan to continue to support my profession, and I'll continue on the Clinical Audit and Peer Review Panel for another year, and I'll honour some speaking engagements made to DF1s and dental nurses during 2019.

I remain a trustee of the BDA Benevolent Fund and contribute to the Northern Ireland 'Probing Stress in Dentistry' project. I also plan to continue to be involved at the local Branch level and offer support and expertise when I can. 

It has been a privilege to represent my peers in so many different roles over the years. 

It's important that younger dentists step up and take part in their profession, and there are so many ways to get involved – so please consider how you can contribute.

Philip Henderson, member

BDA Principal Executive Committee


BDA Northern Ireland

BDA Northern Ireland supports, represents and promotes, the interests of all dentists working in Northern Ireland. Working with elected committee members, we negotiate on behalf of the profession on terms and conditions, pay and contracts.


With each new member, our voice and our influence grows. Add your voice, join today.