Neville Hall
Neville Hall

Neville Hall (15th December 1936 – 28th September 2020)

A personal tribute – Professor Philip Lumley.

It was with great sadness that I heard of the passing of Neville. He was a kind and courteous man, who when I came to Birmingham in the mid 1980’s went out of his way to make me feel included in the teaching staff in the dental school.  We got on well, had similar interests both clinical and sporting. 

Neville was born in County Durham and moved to Birmingham as a boy, he was a keen sportsman, especially, cricket, football and rugby representing his school - Camp Hill for Boys where he was Head Boy. I knew of Neville before I came to Birmingham through senior colleagues I had worked for in both Dundee and Glasgow.  Neville worked half time in the dental school and half time in private practice, his reputation as an excellent clinician, capable of delivering the highest quality work preceded him, he was as they say at the top of his game, widely known as a crown and bridge man, but he was far more. 

Everyone who knew Neville at the time will remember the trade mark upturned collar, a great teacher who supported and also stood up for students, they trusted him, his judgement and that he watched their backs. 

Neville also contributed to the teaching of dental nurses both qualified and trainees, the dental nurses would go to him when dental students were struggling and he would help the students.  We struck up a strong friendship and Neville would direct patients to me from the student clinic that were too difficult for the students. 

Neville was the founder of Comprehensive Care, an innovative whole patient care teaching program that was the forerunner of what we now know as Clinical Practice.  It was pioneering in its time and the envy of other teaching hospitals.

Teams of multi disciplinary staff coming together to break down silos of teaching – this was before the days of Restorative Dentistry, it was in fact more far reaching than that, a unique effort to try and make the undergraduate students transition to general dental practice easier, he must have done this in his mid to late thirties or thereabouts, in University terms he was implementing change from an early age. 

Neville was a humble man known for his clinical work and teaching, less so for his clinical research contribution in the area of sedation, fifty years ago he published in The British Dental Journal and Anaesthesia on The use of intravenous diazepam during dental surgery on special needs patients, and ten years later he published on The aetiology of dental fear. A five-year study of the use of intravenous diazepam in its management again in The British Dental Journal.  

This was pioneering work in its time and Neville was right at the forefront of it in delivery and also teaching where he trained a number of dental nurses in their Advanced Sedation Certificates, they described working with him as a privilege.  The subject areas of this clinical research capture his caring and compassionate side and his wish to make quality dentistry available for all.

I missed Neville when he left the dental school to take up full time practice with Barry Hamburger. We kept in contact through referred patients and post graduate courses. 

Neville worked at RAF Brampton in 2005 as a Civilian Dental Officer, as a locum. He was the only dentist at Brampton and therefore he was the Chief Dental Officer! He only worked at RAF Brampton but provided dental services for the tri-service personnel who were working at RAF Brampton, RAF Wyton and RAF Henlow; this included RAF pilots, engineers and intelligence officers, amongst others. He was held in very high regard. 

When Neville retired from practice, he contacted me regarding returning to teaching, I was delighted and so many students benefitted from his kind and caring approach, his teaching feedback was always excellent.

This time it was the other way round it was my turn to welcome Neville back to the dental school, I allocated patients I had treated to the students through Neville, we thought and did things similarly, he would go to the laboratory and check the students work, attention to detail, he exuded quality.

His contribution was valued far wider though, Neville quickly established an excellent working relationship with the staff, especially the younger ones, Neville was someone they looked up to as one said to me recently “I really looked up to him”.

Other descriptors that have come forward, a wonderful teacher and clinician, a true gentleman, such a lovely kind man, a legend, a great educator, we need more like him.