Does your oral health care policy have teeth?
In June 2019 the Care Quality Commission published a report about oral health care in Care Homes. It was in part triggered by the release of NICE guideline NG48 back in July 2016 which recognised the importance of maintaining and improving oral health and dental health in care homes.
Good oral health is desirable for many reasons. It ensures people don’t suffer unnecessarily from pain (especially important for those with communication difficulties), it can prevent malnutrition (a common condition among the elderly with an estimated 1.3 million currently at risk) and it reduces the risk of aspiration pneumonia, a serious and potentially fatal condition unfortunately common in care homes. For those with chronic conditions, good oral care supports them so they can take the medicines they need to maintain their health. Keeping mouth and teeth in the best condition possible is central to personal wellbeing and should be given sufficient attention, in order that care home residents do not suffer unduly.
The Smiling Matters report which you can read in full here, involved the CQC setting out to discover how oral health care in care homes was being managed. This involved their regular inspectors being accompanied by specialist dental inspectors, assessing the oral health care in 100 care homes across the country. A broad spectrum of establishments of all ratings and locations was chosen to ensure an accurate picture of what oral care looked like.
Findings were mixed but the overall results reflected a lack of sufficient focus on oral health care in the care home sector. Key areas requiring improvement included:
- Poor staff awareness of guidelines
- Only half of care homes provided specific staff training to support people’s daily mouth care
52 % of care homes didn’t have an oral health care policy
- Improvements needed to strengthen links with dentists and dental care providers, so that residents can access routine NHS healthcare. A third of care homes reported problems accessing dental care for residents
- Care plans should mention oral care specifically. It is often overlooked
- Oral health care needs to feature more in regulatory and commissioning assessments
- Oral care products such as toothbrushes can be hard to source for residents as they are considered a cosmetic product, not a health care product, and this falls between funding gaps
- The general lack of awareness needs addressing, of the importance of oral care to wider health and well-being
So, do you have an oral health policy in place, that has teeth?
It is clear from the Smiling Matters report that oral health is going to be a clear priority for the CQC going forward and care homes should prepare themselves appropriately. The fact that 52% of care homes didn’t have an oral care policy really flags up a concerning lack of awareness.
If you are the owner or Registered Manager of one of those Care Homes, we can help you. Here at Insequa we have an up to date comprehensive Oral Health Care Policy available as part of our Evidenced Understanding online system – if you’d like to learn more please do get in touch on 0115 896 3999. With over 9,500 enrolled on our Evidenced Understanding policies, you’ll be in good company.