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Oral health in care homes back on the agenda

Yesterday, Baroness Morgan confirmed that the care home oral health programme Gwên am Byth will restart and a new stripped-down version has launched to encourage more care homes to sign up for oral health support.

During the debate on dentistry, oral health and vulnerable groups yesterday, Owen Griffiths MS made clear that renewed engagement with oral health is long overdue:

"I was hoping that the Government statement of last week would mention oral care in care homes, but it did not. There was mention of COVID, controls and contracts. There was mention of targets, timescales and tools. There was mention of vulnerable groups, various measures and valuable aspirations, but no specific mention of oral health in care homes. And given that the last update we have on the Gwên am Byth programme predates the pandemic, I would like to put this issue back on the agenda with this debate."

The Gwên am Byth oral health programme was launched in 2015 to improve oral hygiene and mouth care for older people living in Welsh care homes. It was to plug the shortfalls in dental care for older people in care homes, by ensuring that an up-to-date mouth care policy is in place; by training staff in mouth care, and by keeping a register of that training. However, a full roll out of the programme was suspended because of the pandemic.

Baroness Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services, responded by praising the work done by the profession during this difficult time and announcing that the programme is in fact now resuming:

"To address this inequality and widen access to the programme, I've introduced a simplified offer and approach that is intended to facilitate more care homes being able to meet the essential minimum standards and take part. This is called Essential Gwên am Byth… The simplified approach can be initiated in care homes that have not started the programme or have found it difficult to comply with the current all-Wales approach... The programme, including the offer of Essential Gwên am Byth, is now resuming… I hope that the simplified offer will enable all care homes to be a part of this programme, ensuring that some of our most vulnerable groups have access to the oral health they require."