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More than half of care homes have difficulties accessing dental care for their residents says Healthwatch Lancashire

Results of a Healthwatch Lancashire report into dental care has revealed that more than half of 62 Lancashire care homes said that they have had difficulties gaining access to dental services for their residents and those with poor mobility or dementia are most at risk.

Healthwatch Lancashire undertook a study into the availability and issues that care homes face when their residents need dental care after noting a trend whilst undertaking Enter and View visits to care homes across Lancashire.

During the visits, access to dental services was a recurrent theme of concern for care home staff, which the patient voice-championing organisation decided to investigate further by speaking to representatives in 62 care homes.

The report shows that 54% of care home representatives said that they had experienced difficulties gaining access to dental services for their residents in the past although overall 86% said that residents do have access to effective dental services.

The report highlights particular concerns that those who have poor mobility or suffer with dementia are most likely to experience difficulties with accessing dental services with 31% of care homes stating that they find it difficult to get dentists to visit care homes.

One care home representative said: “It would be ideal if we could get a dentist to come regularly, especially because we are a dementia unit and the residents can’t always show pain and let us know if there are dental problems.”

It is important to note that overall 85% of care home representatives said that they feel their residents have access to effective dental care although care homes in Preston and West Lancashire recorded much lower figures than other areas of Lancashire.

NHS England have responded to the report to state that The Local Dental Network is presently working on a number of schemes to widen access for patients including a focus on facilitated access for the elderly and supporting care homes in relation to oral health for their residents.

Another care home representative told Healthwatch Lancashire: “I am glad that dental access for care homes is being looked into as it could certainly be improved.”

The findings of the report have also been shared with Healthwatch England who are looking at similar concerns around the difficulties residents in care homes have when accessing dental services on a national level.

Sheralee Turner-Birchall, Chief Officer of Healthwatch Lancashire, said: “Healthwatch Lancashire was able to respond to feedback we gathered from care home staff across Lancashire to highlight difficulties residents are experiencing when accessing services.

“I would like to thank NHS England for considering the findings from this project and for providing a response to our report.”

Jackie Forshaw, Head of Primary Care, NHS England – Lancashire said: “We welcome the results of the study and it’s good to see that overall 86% of care home representatives said that they feel their residents have access to effective dental care.

"The study has enabled us to take a closer look at this group of patients and what we can do to further improve services for them. The Local Dental Network is now working on a number of new initiatives to widen access for patients, including a focus on facilitated access for the elderly and supporting care homes across Lancashire in relation to oral health for residents.”

The full report ‘Access to dental care for care home residents in Lancashire’ is available to read and download from the Healthwatch Lancashire website at www.healthwatchlancashire.co.uk