LDC and BDA want “Shameful” lack of care for vulnerable elderly reversed
This week dentists from across the UK have called on governments to fund dental services for residents in care homes which are often either poor or non-existent.
The annual gathering of dentists from Local Dental Committees (LDCs), held in Belfast (7-8 June), has said that commissioning dental services for vulnerable older people is rarely a priority and it's time that this shameful situation is reversed.
Dentists have said that access to dental treatments should be given the same priority as general health for all adults in care homes, as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended two years ago but has yet to be delivered.
Research by the British Dental Association found that less than two per cent of the NHS dental budget is spent on treating these patients, which cannot provide them with the care they need. It has also found where oral health care provision is poor that residents can experience difficulties in eating, exacerbated by untreated mouth infections or ill-fitting dentures, which can lead to dehydration and malnutrition.
Recent reports from Healthwatch inspections have found many homes’ staff were “rushed off their feet”, with many residents lacking access to even basic oral health care. It found vulnerable residents with dentures that have never been taken out, and home managers who admitted oral health was not a major priority.
Senior national adviser for Care Quality Commission, John Milne, told delegates that when the regulator inspects care homes, it expects them to be following the NICE guidance. He warned that the CQC is actively looking into what more it can do to improve the oral health of such residents.
Dentists have also backed calls for more training in eating disorders and a specific plan developed to ensure that these patients receive timely care in the right setting.
Joe Hendron, Chair of the Local Dental Committees Annual Conference, said: “Good oral health is important for everyone, regardless of their age or circumstances. Being able to eat, communicate and socialise confidently all depend on maintaining a healthy mouth.
“Looking after the healthcare needs of vulnerable adults is not simply an issue for care homes, and it shouldn’t be left to chance.
“For far too long treating NHS dentistry as an optional extra has robbed residents who could be our relatives, parents and grandparents of the dignity they deserve, with a devastating impact on their health and wellbeing.”