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28th July 2017

David Houston, chairman of the judging panel, considers how The Private Dentistry Awards has maintained its success.

David Houston, chairman of the judging panel and compère of the Private Dentistry Awards, provides a potted history of the event and considers how it has maintained its success.

When used in a military scenario the line which follows the phrase used as the title of this article is ‘friend or foe?’ I acknowledge that for some members of the profession this could be an apt concern, as such competitions as the Private Dentistry Awards do not find universal favour with colleagues. Understanding that it would be impossible to please all of the people all of the time, the satisfaction all of those concerned with the creation, administration and hosting of the Awards derive from experiencing the delight and excitement expressed by the finalists – not to mention the actual winners – more than justifies the existence of, motivation for and reasoning behind the Awards.

Despite my rather obvious personal bias, the sole motivation for creating the Awards was to recognise excellence plus reward industry and innovation using a vehicle which was transparent and accountable. An essential prerequisite of this was that any judging panel would consist of publicly identified individuals who brought experience, achievement, gravitas and an unbiased demeanour to the task of reviewing the entries received. Whilst this year’s Private Dentistry Awards will be the 17th such event in their history to date, my motivation for this judging model utilising a large and evolving group of professionals has remained a core principle of the judging process, as it was fuelled by my personal frustration arising from repeated experience of entering rival awards prominent in the calendar some two decades ago. Although our practice was fortunate to enjoy some success in those pioneering events, there was a lingering sense of leaving the ceremony rather perplexed and intrigued as to why one practice or individual had been favoured over another.

As such, when I approached the editor-in-chief of this August journal to seek support for a new award (singular, as the original incarnation was for a sole Practice of the Year award). The central tenet was that it would be a competition for the profession, judged by the profession based upon peer review and accountability. This was achieved by advertising the new completion across the FMC group of titles, enlisting the services of Dr Ellis Paul and Dr Linda Greenwall as two renowned members of the profession to share the judging duties with me and by publicly announcing the reasons behind our choice of winning practice at the award presentation itself.

Quickly, the award gained prominence and prestige within the profession and it was realised by all concerned that the natural progression was to expand the range of categories and to host a ceremony which allowed greater acclaim to the winners. Although the range of categories available to enter has altered and expanded as the Awards have evolved, they have always been created in response to trends or developments we have noted as becoming apparent within entries from previous years. In this way we have sought to reflect the changes inherent within the provision of dentistry throughout the UK and hope to reward innovators and pioneers thus giving publicity and acknowledgment to their ideas and concepts for others to consider and emulate if appropriate.
The first few ceremonies were lunchtime affairs held in the opulent surroundings of the Café Royale in Piccadilly. These pioneering pre-Christmas events were a steep learning curve for all of us concerned with the Awards, as we learnt many lessons the hard way. Being somewhat the victims of our own success, the rapid growth of the Awards both in respect of the number of categories and the actual entries received quickly caused us to outgrow the physical limitations of the Café Royale. In recent years, we have found a natural home in the magnificent function suite complex of the Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster. This stunning venue now hosts our altered format evening ceremony which appears to have found great favour with audiences, many of whom utilise
the ceremony as a grand Christmas party.

In response to the expanded range of categories and exponentially increasing number of entries a considerably larger judging panel has been required. Although a regular core of colleagues generously return year on year there has been a welcome addition of new members of the profession contributing their time and effort on behalf of the entrants. I remain indebted to all of the judges who selflessly devote themselves to achieving well-considered and unbiased outcomes across the broad range of categories they are assigned, often challenged with comparing
very diverse practices. The fact that they receive no reimbursement or reward for their invaluable contribution to the Awards clearly demonstrates their belief in and support for the concept of the Awards. For which I and all of the organisers are indebted to them. With often over 20 judges involved each year and given their own prominence and achievements within the profession the debate is guaranteed to be lively and prolonged. Consequently, entrants may be reassured that their submissions are reviewed in depth and detail. Regrettably, the pressures of hosting a long
ceremony to a strict timetable no longer permits (as was previously the case). The provision of explanatory statements from the hosts on stage as to why a certain practice or individual has been chosen by the judging panel as the winner of a specific category. Rather, a booklet is now published online following completion of the ceremony which details the winning entries and highlights
their attributes which so impressed the judges.

For the reassurance of entrants, all judges work as pairs to avoid accusations of bias or undue influence whilst all major category decisions are taken as a collective group to ensure a fully ratified and broad-spectrum choice of overall winners. Given the scale and grandeur of the event in its current guise the need for sponsorship to assist in the staging is inevitable. It is extremely heartening that many of the founding sponsors remain onboard today. However, the increased overheads have been met by the generous contributions of many and varied new partner companies who are most welcome. Their support for the Awards and the perceived value they derive from being associated with them is testament to their vision and charity. Nevertheless, stating the obvious, without entrants keen to benchmark themselves against their peers and to seek recognition for their own efforts and achievements the Awards simply would not exist.

During my tenure as Chairman of the judging panel I have witnessed an exponential growth in the numbers of entries and their geographical origins. It is most heartening to receive submissions from literally the four corners of the country as it would indicate broad development of private sector practice and clearly shows fundamental change at the grass-roots level across the profession. Given that almost the only thing previous winners have in common – other than excellence – is that they have nothing in common, I urge all prospective entrants to make 2017 the year they finally commit to making a submission for the judge’s consideration. As is often quoted, ‘You have to be in it to win it!’ Visually stunning entries will always catch the eye initially but the judges seek quality above all else so please do not despair should your IT skills be lacking. Pertinent, concise and appropriate text supplemented by strong supporting evidence, particularly when validated by outside or third parties is always of value in ensuring that you stand out from the competition.

The judging panel look forward to reviewing your entries promptly and hopefully recognising your outstanding achievements in person during the Awards ceremony in December. Perhaps it may be your name that is announced from the stage as the winning entry is revealed. In order to avoid disappointment, please do remember to read the category descriptions and submission criteria which are published on the Awards website. Our requirements are specific, detailed and applied without licence, so please do not be excluded by inadvertent non-compliance with the regulations which must apply to all entries submitted to ensure

Good luck!

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