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Recently, the BBC published an article detailing the difficulties care homes are facing in sourcing dental care for their residents. A care home manager described how it has become an “impossibility” to get NHS dentists to visit elderly residents when …
Recently, the BBC published an article detailing the difficulties care homes are facing in sourcing dental care for their residents. A care home manager described how it has become an “impossibility” to get NHS dentists to visit elderly residents when they required treatment.
Further, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has revealed in their recent progress report on oral health in care homes, in 2019, 6% of care homes confirmed that the people who used their services could ‘never’ access NHS dental care. In 2022, this figure sharply increased to 25%. The number of care homes who were always or mostly always able to access routine dental care decreased significantly, from 67% to 35%.
This news comes at a time where the NHS dental crisis continues to escalate with the issue being debated in the House of Commons on 27 April 2023. The need for reform is becoming quite dire and it is evident that whilst this issue is hitting the majority of the population, it is having a quite significant impact on the countries most vulnerable individuals. The CQC notes that “issues with accessing NHS oral care experienced by the general population could be exacerbated for people living in care homes, due to reduced independence and mobility and a lack of dentists who are able or willing to visit care homes.”
It is reported that care homes are relying on their own oral care home procedures, including checking their resident’s mouths daily, in order to prevent problems from escalating. It is noted that poor dental hygiene in the elderly could result in various possibly life-threatening infections, as they are vulnerable.
The owner of the care home is noted to have urged some families to try and find a private dentist to treat their relatives, but this is not always a feasible option, and some dental practices could not facilitate seeing these patients.
They go on to discuss that oral health affects people’s overall health and wellbeing, and their ability to eat and digest food. These are potentially issues that elderly residents already struggle with and are further exacerbated by untreated oral health problems.
The CQC report highlights that there is an increasing lack of dental workforce, in terms of the numbers of staff but also those that are suitably qualified to meet the growing needs of people living in care homes. It is noted that the workforce that is specifically designed to care for the most vulnerable is decreasing. There also appears to be a lack of practitioners willing and able to visit cares to provide domiciliary services. It is suggested that this related to the number of contracts that include domiciliary care. Reportedly, only 5% of contracts for NHS dental activity in England included domiciliary care in 2021/2022.
Overall, access to NHS dentistry in care homes is incredibly limited and is a further reflection of the NHS dental crisis and dental deserts that are forming across the country. Care home residents are yet another group of people struggling to access dental services, but it is arguably having a more significant impact on them owing to their potential vulnerability. If you or someone you know have suffered from any failure by your dentist to diagnose or treat your dental problems or faced an unreasonable delay in receiving dental care, please contact the Dental Negligence Team who will be happy to assist and advise on the prospects of bringing a dental negligence claim.