Oral health in care homes – what are we doing for this vulnerable segment of society?

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  Posted by: The Probe      26th April 2020

We are living in an ageing population. The UK has over 12 million people living in it aged 65 and above, and this is impacting the way that our society works.[i] For the first time in history, the elderly are forming a significant part of our population and yet we are struggling on the whole to meet the demands for care that this portion of society needs.

There are now more people living in care homes than ever before. According to estimates, 410,000 people now live in these residences, representing a significant portion of the populace. In fact, the UK care home market as a whole is currently worth around £15.9 billion per year.[ii]

You may have recently heard that a 2019 report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that oral health education and focus in care homes is considerably lacking.[iii] Key findings from the report suggested that the majority of care homes visited (52%) had no policies in place to protect and promote oral health and that almost half of these residences (47%) were not training staff to look after residents’ oral health. Furthermore, the report also revealed that 73% of resident care plans did not cover or only partially covered oral health.[iv]

So, what are professionals doing to help this vulnerable segment of society? The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) has recently appointed a number of BSDHT Ambassadors who are helping to pave the way to better treatment for sections of society who need a helping hand. Victoria Marsden, Inspector Manager Dentistry-North for the Care Quality Commission, has been selected for one of these roles for 2020. Below, she details the steps the CQC are taking to improve oral health in care homes going forward.

Spreading awareness

“To begin with, the most important part of tackling the problems with oral health in the care home sector has been raising awareness of the problem” Victoria says. “The CQC wanted to draw attention to the problems by publishing the report, and this way we have managed to bring to light something that otherwise may not have received the attention it requires to really make a difference. It was a team effort from the start – the CQC National Dental Team, Inspectors, Inspection Managers and Head of Inspection all worked with the Adult Social Care (ASC) Inspectors to bring the project to fruition.

“By publishing the report and making it widely visible to the whole dental community, we not only wanted to make the facts known, but also inspire people to join us in tackling this problem head on and improving the quality of life for people living in care homes across the UK!”

Making improvements

“We supported 100 care homes and as part of their outcomes decided to implement a number of changes to see what improvements could be made. Since the beginning of October 2019, ASC inspectors need to ask two mandatory questions when visiting residential care homes. The first question is ‘How are people’s day-to-day health and wellbeing needs being met?’. This is a more general approach that encourages care home workers to assess the overall attitudes and methods employed to improve healthcare being practised in the residence. This question should be followed by a more direct enquiry into oral health: ‘Do all staff have training in oral health care?’. A number of subsidiary inquiries such as whether they received this training during induction, whether they feel confident supplying this care for residents and whether they consider healthcare when assessing things such as tissue damage, weight loss etc. should come next.

“The second question is designed to assess how professionals working in care homes are providing oral health care. Inspectors should ask ‘How do you ensure oral health care is assessed, considered and delivered as part of a person’s care plan?’ and depending on response, ancillary questions should follow. These can cover whether there is a complete oral health plan in place and if residents have easy access to necessary oral health products such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and denture cleaning fluid.

“These questions have also been mandatory for inspectors visiting care homes that specialise in looking after individuals with disabilities since the beginning of November. All ASC staff underwent training to ensure that they can better understand the oral health needs of these people and feel confident in helping and supplying this care.”

Moving forward

“As we are living in an ageing population, there needs to be further drastic changes to ensure that vulnerable elderly patients are getting the oral health education and care that they deserve. We all know that elderly people are more susceptible to certain oral conditions, and therefore it’s best for everyone in the profession to raise awareness where possible.

“Moving forwards, the CQC recommends the following steps: sharing best practice, repeating and reinforcing guidance, mandatory staff training, oral health check-ups for all those moving into care homes and a multi-agency group to help raise awareness further. Being a BSDHT Ambassador puts me in the perfect position to spread the word further and keep making a difference. The Society is one of the most influential bodies in the industry, and already does a huge amount to support people in more vulnerable segments of the population. I hope that by working together, we can make big changes in the future, especially as the number of elderly people who will require better standards of care are projected to continue rising even further in the future.”

To find out more about the BSDHT and its ambassadors, please contact the team today.

 

For more information about the BSDHT, please visit www.bsdht.org.uk

call 01788 575050 or email enquiries@bsdht.org.uk

 

[i] Age UK. Later Life in the United Kingdom. Link: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/later_life_uk_factsheet.pdf [Last accessed December 19].

[ii] GOV.UK. Care Homes Market Study: Summary of Final Report. Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/care-homes-market-study-summary-of-final-report/care-homes-market-study-summary-of-final-report [Last accessed December 19].

[iii] Care Quality Commission. CQC Calls for Improvements to Oral Health in Care Homes. Link: https://www.cqc.org.uk/news/releases/cqc-calls-improvements-oral-health-care-homes [Last accessed December 19].

[iv] Care Quality Commission. CQC Calls for Improvements to Oral Health in Care Homes. Link: https://www.cqc.org.uk/news/releases/cqc-calls-improvements-oral-health-care-homes [Last accessed December 19].


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