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Safeguarding children: a new tool to help all dental teams

Blog Author Charlotte Waite

Blog Date 13/09/2019

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Image (c) Getty Images



As you probably have heard it said before, safeguarding is everybody’s business. 

As dentists in the CDS we treat many of the most vulnerable patients in society and we know the importance of being vigilant to any alerting features that one of our patients may be being neglected. 

All dental teams work to safeguard the wellbeing of their patients and strive to respond appropriately, to any concerns they have.

Safeguarding our child and young patients can be challenging. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell if a child is at risk of harm and cases continue to be highlighted in the media that demonstrate failures in health social care safeguarding systems and procedures.

So, I’m really proud that colleagues in the CDS have been working on a tool to help dental teams take a consistent approach to missed appointments.

Community dentists - Jenny Harris, Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry, Community and Special Care Dentistry, Charles Clifford Dental Services, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who was recognised in 2018 by the NSPCC for her pioneering work in safeguarding children, alongside Jen Kirby, a Leadership Fellow and Speciality Registrar in Paediatric Dentistry, have led on the development of this new tool to help dental practices break down the stages of the process for spotting and reporting safeguarding concerns or issues in children and young people who have missed dental appointments.

Knowing the time pressures faced by all dental teams, so the toolkit offers a simple flowchart for action and template letters that can be downloaded, to help your team follow a consistent approach. 

One key element was changing the description of the missed appointment from ‘did not attend’ to ‘was not brought’. The importance of this is more than just semantics – children don’t get the choice of whether they attend an appointment or not, it is up to a parent or carer to bring them. This helps us to focus on the situation from the child’s perspective and the impact this may have on their wellbeing.

It feels a like a simple change, but in their research project, the Sheffield Team found it key to changing perceptions of dentists, it went from being just another FTA or DNA (and we know there can be a lot of those!), to being a flag for consideration, and the dental team being empowered to know the steps they should take next. 

Neglect is often hard to spot. Children don’t always have the voice to tell you, parents or carers may be hiding their actions. Neglect is often only spotted after several health and social care professionals have been involved, and there is a weight of documented evidence, including missed appointments, so every action you take really matters. 

We believe this tool will help to prevent vulnerable children and young people from ‘slipping through the net’. We are urging all dentists to take this toolkit and use it; discuss it with their teams and encourage everyone to consider the steps when treating every child or young patient. 

We’d also be keen to hear any feedback on the tool – if you’ve used it, please get in touch and let us know what you think. 

I know there is fantastic, innovative, patient-centred work going on in the CDS, which we don’t always get to hear about, so it’s great to see the BDA is supporting this tool and promoting it to the wider profession.

Charlotte Waite, Chair
England Community Dental Services Committee

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