More than half of Lancashire care homes said they have had difficulties gaining access to dental services for their residents – and those with poor mobility or dementia are most at risk.
Independent group Healthwatch said a study found 54 per cent of 62 care homes reported difficulty getting appointments in the past, though 86 per cent said residents do have access to ‘effective’ dental service when they need it.
The problem is the length of time waiting for routine visits
And 31 per cent said they found it hard to get dentists to visit them, when residents have dementia or trouble getting out and about.
“It would be ideal if we could get a dentist to come regularly, especially because we are a dementia unit and the residents can’t always show pain and let us know if there are dental problems,” one care home worker said.
The NHS’s Jackie Forshaw, head of primary care commissioning in Lancashire, said: “The study has enabled us to take a closer look at this group of patients and what we can do to further improve services for them. The Local Dental Network is now working on a number of new initiatives to widen access for patients, including a focus on facilitated access for the elderly and supporting care homes across Lancashire in relation to oral health for residents.”
The report, called Access to Dental Services for Care Home Residents in Lancashire, gathered responses from 12 care homes in Fylde and Wyre. Some 91 per cent said residents have access to dentists, while 91 per cent also said they have access to emergency dental treatment if required.
One reported: “If we had a denture emergency, we could speak to the emergency dentist but we would have to arrange transport to get them the resident there which is sometimes an issue.”
Seven-in-10 homes said residents can get a home visit if they have difficulty leaving their residence, while just 10 per cent said they had issues in gaining access to a dentist for routine appointments.
However, one warned: “We have not found any difficulties accessing dental services for emergencies. The problem is the length of time waiting for routine visits.”