The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published the findings of a follow-up review on the state of oral health care in care homes across England. The review shows there have been improvements in the understanding of how important oral health is to keep people healthy.
In 2019, CQC conducted the first review of oral health in care homes and found that steps were often not being taken to ensure that people received the oral health care they needed. As a result, CQC made recommendations to care home providers, staff, and dental providers to improve oral health care.
The follow-up review conducted in 2022 found that care homes are now much more aware of the NICE oral health guideline. In 2019, only 61% of care homes were aware of the guideline, and this has now increased to 91%. More care plans are fully covering oral health needs, with 60% in 2022 compared to 27% in 2019. However, more work needs to be done to ensure that all care plans cover oral health.
The percentage of care home providers saying that staff always (or mostly always) receive specific training in oral health has doubled from 30% in 2019 to 60% in 2022. This is still not enough, as 40% of staff may not receive training, which needs to be improved.
Although improvements have been made, CQC remains concerned that people living in care homes are missing out on vital care from dental practitioners, both at the right time and in the right place. Care home providers also highlighted that not enough dentists were able or willing to visit care homes to treat people who may be less mobile.
Mary Cridge, Director of Adult Social Care at CQC, commented on the report, saying: “Whilst I am pleased to see that many of our recommendations from 2019 have been taken on board, and providers are more aware of how important oral health is to keeping people healthy, we recognise that there is still room for improvement. In particular, it is imperative that more is done to ensure people have access to vital care from dentists and that oral and dental health is included in all care plans.”
CQC has made a number of recommendations to care home providers, staff, and dental providers to improve oral health care. These include raising awareness of what people should expect when they enter a care home and their families, getting an oral health assessment on admission to a care home, and promoting cross-sector integration between care home and dental professionals.
HLTH Group acknowledges the improvements made in oral health care in care homes across England. We support the recommendations made by CQC to improve oral health care, and we encourage care home providers, staff, and dental providers to work together to ensure that every resident of every care home has their oral health needs met.