The LDC has enjoyed a very strong relationship with Harrow Council for many years and has been part of its oral health steering group for many years. This group brings together a wide range of stakeholders in Harrow, from the public health team, LDC, Community Dental services through to early years teams and health visitors. The emphasis continues to be on children’s oral health as this is the traditional statutory remit of a local authority.
Since Covid most areas of the country have reported an increase in the number of children with special educational needs. In Harrow alone there were around 600 additional applications for registration for children with special educational needs. The group was keen to develop more information about dentists training on looking after children with special educational needs, which encompasses the whole spectrum of needs including; emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD); Autism; Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder (ADHD/ADD); learning difficulties such as Dyslexia; and others. There was awareness that the CDS is often the best environment for many children with additional needs and that as well as training contractual issues would need to be addressed. We heard that what many parents want is to know which practices and practitioners have a special skill in seeing children with these needs, and a centrally run training programme would provide that information and that standardised approach that so many families expect.
The 2019 survey of children’s oral health showed that Harrow had the worst oral health in London. The Council engaged, with partners, on a programme of child oral health promotion to address this. The Harrow Health and Wellbeing Strategy identifies starting well as a priority and oral health as a key element of this. The Council mobilised funding through the public health grant and inequalities funding to expand their existing programme of intervention to 50 settings from 20. The expanded programme showed that 3,500 children were reached last year, targeted in the most deprived areas. Using the principle of Making Every Contact Count they want oral health to be everyone’s business and 75 professionals trained in 2022/23 to achieve just this. The public health team have established a strong working relationship with early support children’s centres and early years education settings to encourage good oral health practices from an early age. Over 110 front line staff including health visitors, early years education, foster carers, school nurses, school welfare officers have also been trained to use MECC to deliver oral health promotion messages.
The LDC invested significant time in the development of this pilot proposal, as requested by the Council, which involved extensive consultations with LDC member dentists, LDC directors, and the Confederation. As a dental community, we should take pride in the fact that we are embarking on a project of this level. It’s a testament to our commitment to addressing a critical dental need among children that is currently unmet. This pilot proposal represents a proactive step towards reducing oral health disparities and improving access to care for our young patients. Please keep in mind that the journey to gaining approval for a pilot project can be a multi-step process, requiring ongoing efforts and collaboration with various stakeholders. It may take time to build the necessary support, but we should remain persistent and adaptable in our approach. Together, we can make a significant impact on oral health in our community.
The Harrow Oral Health Steering Group is a proactive and driven collaboration. Given the local areas now have more input to how services operate we will continue to work with them to ensure that general dentistry is high on the agenda and that initiatives are put in place that allow and support colleagues to be involved in local programmes of work.
Harrow Council is keen for practices to make use of national products such as the following from the Start 4 Life campaign: