Getting back on the same track

2 October 2018
At some stage in the evolution of medicine and healthcare, professions such as dentistry and optometry diverged down separate paths.
 
The drive for integrated primary care at scale in the name of NHS sustainability promise s to correct that evolutionary mistake.
 
We hope that this special issue of PCC Insight will nudge nature along.
 
While slightly suspect terms such as ‘holistic approach’ and person -centred care have been bandied about in the NHS for many years, those delivering and managing care have not seen the role that professionals such as dentists and optometrists could play in improving prevention and early disease detection.
 
Unlike doctors, the patients sitting in the consulting rooms of these practitioners are mostly well – or at least relatively well.
 
Of course, the busy dentist should educate their patient about preventive oral health.
 
But they can move beyond that to promote health and wellbeing, signpost to appropriate support (such as smoking cessation services) and possibly detect the early stages of diseases such as dem entia.
 
This is one area where Wales, with their dental contract reform programme considers facilitating dentistry to better engage with primary care clusters and the wider patient care agenda., As a result care of peo ple with diab etes, smoking cessation, alcohol abuse and mouth cancer have already started to make progress.
 
With the development of primary care networks in England, doctors and other local healthcare providers and leaders should be reaching out to their dental colleagues – as has happened in Fleetwood (see page 1). However, dentists too need to get their act together by working out what it is they can offer the wider local NHS community – and the
patients they serve. They need to then deliver that message to their primary care network and sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) leaders with one, clear, unambiguous voice in each network or STP.
 
This is an opportunity to be imaginative. They could give older patients the chance to complete a simple memory questionnaire in reception (which some might find a welcome relief from two year old copies of Hello or Bella ) to help early diagnosis of dementia. They could talk to the primary care network or STP about hosting a blood pressure measuring
machine in reception.
 
With most GP receptionis ts now training in signposting, they could invite medical practice staff to educate their team about local services that suppor t health and
wellbeing.
 
Perhaps most signific antly of all, they could play a greater role in health screening, health advice and directing patients to other services where appropriate. Many patients are rarely seen in general practice. There’s a huge opportunity for the dental profession to play a part in making sure they don’t slip through the primary care net.
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