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Thursday, December 31, 1998 Published at 00:16 GMT

Dame power as NHS scoops top awards

Nursing heads the New Year Honours list

Two of Britain's three new dames work in the health service.

Pauline Fielding, director of nursing at Preston Acute Hospitals Trust in Lancashire, and Dr Margaret Seward, president of the British Dental Council, were both named Dames of the British Empire (DBE) in the New Year Honours list.

Dr Seward, aged 63, has been a pioneer in her field.

The first "dental dame" was the first woman member of the General Dental Council and became its first female president in 1994 with a five-year mission to modernise it and review its standards and guidelines.

From 1993 to 1994 she was president of the British Dental Association (BDA) - only the second woman to hold the post in the BDA's 112-year history.

She was also the first woman Vice-Dean of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Women in Dentistry

As honorary president of Women in Dentistry, she helped encourage more women into the profession and dedicated herself to helping women who had taken a career break for family reasons to get back into dentistry.

She organised the first symposium on Women in Dentistry at the Royal Society of Medicine to explore the problems.

Dr Seward began her career as a dental house surgeon at the London Hospital in the East End.

She stayed in hospital work until 1970 when she became a school/community dental officer in Hertfordshire and then a senior research fellow.

From 1979 to 1992, she was editor of the British Dental Journal and currently holds posts as independent director of quality assurance for higher education, director of teamwork for distance learning for dentists and auxiliaries and referee on the NHS research and development programme for primary care.

Dr Seward said she felt "immensely privileged" to receive the damehood.

"I know it sounds trite, but I regard it as being for the whole profession.

"This is the first time we've had a dental dame in all our years of history. I think that's good for dentistry at a time when perhaps we could do with a fillip."

'Taken aback'

Pauline Fielding, 53, said she was "astonished" to win the DBE.

She has been in nursing since she left school at 16, but returned to her studies in later life, eventually gaining a PhD in psychology.

Mrs Fielding, of Blackpool, said of the award: "I was completely taken aback, and although I have done fairly well in my career, it wasn't something I was expecting at all."

She began her career as a cadet nurse at a hospital in Bury, where she was born and then moved to a Manchester hospital after qualifying as a staff nurse.

She went part-time when she and her husband moved to Southampton and she was studying for a degree, but returned to full-time work in 1982 as a ward sister in the Middlesex Hospital in London.

She was taken on at Preston in 1993 and just two months ago was handed the additional job of director of nursing at Chorley and South Ribble NHS Trust.

Nursing crisis

Although the Preston trust has one of the lowest vacancies in the country, Dame Pauline says the nursing shortage is the greatest challenge facing her now.

[ image: Dentistry is also recognised in the award for Dame Margaret Seward]
Dentistry is also recognised in the award for Dame Margaret Seward
"Most hospitals have beds closed because of shortages of nurses and in Preston we have particular trouble in specific areas but our overall level of vacancies is 5%, which is unusually low," she said.

"The pay of nurses cannot be ignored but it's not the only reason there's a nursing shortage - I think it's about a better environment for nurses and offering career development opportunities.

"I hope we have changed the culture in Preston and tried to make it a more attractive place for nurses to work."

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