New Centre for Dental Development shortlisted for regional award

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Photo credit: Clare Banks Photography

A new Centre for Dental Development at the University of Suffolk has been shortlisted for a Public Sector award by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The RICS regional awards recognise inspirational initiatives and developments in land, real estate, construction, and infrastructure.

The regional award winners, who will be announced throughout May and June, will then move forward to compete in the national awards which are held in October.

The University of Suffolk has been shortlisted for the transformation of its James Hehir Building to become a home to a new Centre for Dental Development, which includes new state of the art teaching facilities for dental hygiene and dental therapy as well as the University of Suffolk Dental Community Interest Company (Dental CIC), which has secured an innovative NHS contract for an initial five-year term.

With a total investment of £4.7 million in the new hub, that will not only provide modern teaching facilities but will also offer fully equipped dental surgery units providing high-quality NHS dental services. The local community will benefit and see the impact from this new initiative. 

Excitement spread around campus recently as the University officially welcomed the first cohort of BSc Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy students, while the new NHS dental practice will start treating patients referred by NHS 111 later this spring. 

Nigel Lucker, Director of Estates at the University of Suffolk, said: “This has been a significant project, not only for the University but also for the wider community. We are delighted that the first cohort of students for our BSc Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy course are already benefiting from the new state of the art facilities. The new Dental CIC is now equipped with the latest dental surgery units ready for the first referred patients in the coming months.”

Not only will the new units provide thousands of additional NHS-only dental appointments a year, but it will also be a training hub for future dental health professionals. The training services, located across the first floor, will provide a modern teaching environment for student dental hygienists and therapists at the University and the CIC will offer placements for local dental nurses, dental therapists, and hygienists who have recently qualified or are currently in training.

Steven Ryles, Associate for Architecture at Concertus, said: “While working closely with the clients, contractor, and project team, we were able to overcome the challenges of converting existing layouts of the building quickly, ensuring the scheme was delivered on time and within budget. The open-armed approach and skillset, led to an execution with efficiency and effectiveness.”

Local companies Concertus, Barnes Construction, JSH and KLH Architects, all worked together to deliver and create the expert facilities that will help provide new dental provision across Suffolk and Northeast Essex. Through extensive stakeholder engagement and proactive communication and co-ordination, the appointed specialist providers were seamlessly integrated into the project, ensuring effective delivery of core university equipment and specialist dental apparatus and systems for both the First Floor Teaching Facility and the Second Floor Dental Practice. This process and coordination allowed costs to be reduced and the programme to be as succinct as possible on this live building.

Mark Bailey, Divisional Director at Barnes Construction, said: “We were delighted to be back working with the University of Suffolk and the project team, to repurpose two floors of the James Heir building for this exciting scheme and hope that this helps to alleviate the local and national pressures on dental care”. 

This unique collaborative project provides clinical simulation and treatment facilities supporting the education and training of students in dental therapy and hygiene, whilst developing a dental social enterprise offering NHS dental treatment.