When member LDCs meet with local stakeholders, be they local Healthwatch, the council, the Local Care Partnership or the Integrated Care Board itself, the first questions are always the same: how many practices are there? Where are they? What is their capacity? How can we increase access?
As simple as these questions appear, and as simple as they are to answer, the answers currently provided do not actually provide the information needed. This seeming contradiction arises from the isolation of dental data from all other data in the health and social care setting. What is actually being asked for is information about dentistry that can be applied to meet local needs and plans.
The Integrated Care Boards are tasked with reducing health inequalities and improving health outcomes. In the main this is being addressed through increased integration and planning based on local intelligence. The formation and continued development of Primary Care Networks (which are networks of GPs only really) is often the basic unit around which plans are developed. These cover populations of between 30,000 – 50,000 people. The data captured in general medical practice can be, and is, mapped against other indicators in the local area to inform Joint Strategic Needs Assessments. As the Integrated Care Board model continues to develop these plans will no doubt bring together in more detail all local health information to make the planning and delivery of health and social care more impactful.
Dental data is, however, missing from this equation. The data exists but is not applied. It is delivered in isolation from the rest of health and social care data. To make sure that dentistry can play its part in reducing health inequalities and improving health outcomes the LDC Confederation has been meeting with stakeholders to embed dental data drawn directly from the NHS Business Services Authority into the Shape Atlas. All the data is already publicly available, just in isolation and not in an easy format. The Shape Atlas is part owned by the Department of Health and Social Care, and is already used by public health teams in local authorities so inclusion of dental data would mean that it would be readily accessed by stakeholders.
The Shape Atlas draws together all GP data (location, number of patients, maps the wards where the patients are drawn from, disease prevalence etc.), other health data, social care data (such as care home locations and size), schools data (locations of nurseries, primary and secondary schools etc.) as well as mapping data on the index of multiple deprivations, air quality and other factors. By including dental data in this source, LDCs will be able to answer stakeholder questions in a much more meaningful, relevant and integrated way as described above.
This would provide a quick and easy way to assess viability of linking dental practices to schools and nurseries, while modelling the impact on existing patients. It would allow practices and Local Care Partnerships to see which practices would most relevantly be incentivised to develop additional skill sets in managing the oral health of specific conditions to reduce health inequalities. It would support the vital work of delivering relevant flexible commissioning which would have direct health improvement outcomes for specific cohorts of the population. Ultimately it would simply support NHS dentistry being part of the health and social care landscape.
This is why the LDC Confederation is working with partners at NHS England, NHS Business Services Authority and Shape Atlas itself to ensure up to date and relevant dental data is available on this platform.