The LDC recently met with representatives from the local Healthwatches in south east London.
The Vision of the LDC is:
“For NHS dentistry to be integrated with the rest of the health and social care system to enable dentists and dental care professionals to maximise their skills for the benefits of their community.”
Local Healthwatch are key partners in seeing that Vision become a reality. They are the voice of service users and the public. They are statutory members of local committees which directly influence how services are planned. They are there to make sure that services work for the people who use them.
The concerns that they reflected to us echoed many of the concerns the profession has. They want to see a thriving, well supported NHS dental service delivering oral health care as part of a holistic and integrated plan. But they recognised the issues facing patients caused by a poor dental contract and the impact that ever increasing patient charge revenue has on access.
They were particularly concerned about access to oral health care for those in residential care settings, and we look forward to working with them and partners from the Integrated Care Board on improving this situation. Part of this will tie in with our work engaging with the Training Hub in south east London, upskilling and informing other members of the health and social care team about oral health. Healthwatch were also interested in supporting integration of dental services, by working with voluntary sector organisations to ensure that they also pass on effective oral health messaging. This interesting piece of work will hopefully improve knowledge and access for those with long term conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s and eating disorders.
Part of the strategy of the LDC to ensure the sustainability and future growth of NHS dentistry to break the isolation of our work. We know that dental services are underfunded, yet this is countermanded by the clawback of the dental budget making the argument far more complicated than it needs to be.
Only by improving pathways between the rest of the health and social care sector will we ensure that the value of our service is understood. By working with partners to use flexible commissioning we can make sure that the dental budget is used on patient care. By working with Healthwatch on projects which lead to this, we will make sure that the profession locally has the support of the public and where the public leads politicians follow.
We know that voices are louder together. That the profession is stronger when it stands with patients, rather than in isolation. Working together with the local Healthwatch in south east London we hope to achieve meaningful local changes to services which can influence national debates on dentistry. All of our partners in south east London have a role to play in that and we are pleased to see that the patient voice is calling for improvements to NHS dentistry.