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Time for commissioners to step up on care for vulnerable dental patients

Blog Author Dave Cottam & Charlotte Waite

Blog Date 03/10/2019

Mouth with decay
Photo (c) Mili Doshi

We’ve led the calls for a revolution in dental care in our care homes. And now, thanks to the Care Quality Commission, we may be a step closer to achieving it. 

From 1 October, oral health will finally feature in inspection criteria. Homes will have their effectiveness judged against their ability to meet basic standards for dental care.

It’s not before time.

We’ve worked to expose the neglect too many residents face. As Milli Doshi has previously set out, oral health simply cannot remain an optional extra for some of England’s most vulnerable patients. 

From now on inspectors will tackle training and look at just how oral health care is assessed, considered and delivered as part of care plans. 

These are mandatory questions any dentist will welcome. 

Do staff know what to look for to identify deterioration in oral health? Do residents have easy access to toothpaste, toothbrushes, or dentures cleaning fluid? And fundamentally, do they have access to both routine and emergency dental care?

A challenge for homes, an opportunity for this profession

These questions will bring much-needed accountability. But it also means risk. We know homes are going to face an uphill struggle come inspection time. 

Our research has pointed to the systemic under-commissioning of domiciliary services. Today coverage exists to covering little over 1% of the population whose activity is significantly limited by disability or ill health. 

The UK’s care home population stands at over 400,000 and is growing fast. The 2006 contract pulled the rug from under domiciliary care. There’s the perception that colleagues have been progressively ‘deskilled’ on work that was once every day. Yet to many commissioners these residents simply don’t exist. 

The CQC know access will be a clear challenge. They want both commissioners and the profession to do their bit.

We know residents that can access mainstream services, need to be counted. Those that cannot, need dedicated support.

As representatives of Community Dentists and General Dental Practitioners, we know this profession needs to be supported to do the work these patients deserve. Together we can guarantee access for our older population, in the right place, at the right time.

Dave Cottam, Chair, General Dental Practice Committee &
Charlotte Waite, Chair, England Community Dental Services Committee

Working for dentists and for patients

We will continue to campaign for improved oral health for older people and vulnerable patients.

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