Healthwatch Derbyshire, the county’s independent health and social care watchdog, has highlighted several issues in oral hygiene for older people and those with a learning disability living in residential care across Derbyshire.

Healthwatch Derbyshire visited a number of care homes in the county in October 2018 and spoke to 181 residents/clients aged between 21 to 104 – including people living with dementia and those with learning disabilities -as well as 120 care home staff.

This issue was originally highlighted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which regulates health and social care services, and a request for further insight into this issue was made of the Healthwatch network.

The Healthwatch Derbyshire team found that:

•          The majority of residents last visited a dentist over two years ago, mainly due to local dental services not offering visits to the home

•          The majority of staff had not received any formal training to support residents with their oral hygiene

•          There were delays in residents receiving the treatment they required from a dentist.

A report of their findings and recommendations has been sent through to commissioners of health and care services to highlight where improvements could be made with oral hygiene services. 

These include:

  • Specific oral hygiene training for care staff to support people living with dementia and those with learning disabilities
  • Reducing delays in accessing treatment from local dental providers for residents/clients within care homes, including those with dementia and/or learning disabilities
  • Awareness raising around the importance of good oral hygiene with residents/clients of care homes, including those with dementia and/or learning disabilities.

Furthermore, Healthwatch Derbyshire will incorporate oral hygiene as a topic in their Enter and View visits to care homes in order to monitor future improvements and issues.

Healthwatch Derbyshire CEO Karen Ritchie said: “According to Department of Health (2011), maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial as it not only has an impact on an individual’s ability to eat, speak and socialise, but can also help to prevent conditions such as mouth cancer and cardiovascular disease.

“The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has identified the oral hygiene of care home residents, both older people and those with a learning disability, to be an issue across the UK.

“The issue may be due to a multitude of factors for example training, resident resistance or lack of involvement from the health sector.

“We will be working with health and social care commissioners and providers moving forward to see what can be done to improve this situation and will continue to feedback our findings to the CQC.”

© Healthwatch Derbyshire 2022

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