Dental care for children
by MATTHEW DOOLEY
A report urging more preventative dental care for children has been endorsed by the Cabinet of Hillingdon Council last week.
The report, produced by the External Services Select Committee, urged health authorities to focus on preventative measures in order improve dental outcomes for children—which could ultimately save the NHS money on emergency dental care.
Chairman of the Select Committee, Councillor Nick Denys, Eastcote and East Ruislip (Con), said: “Each year the NHS spends over £3bn on emergency care and the vast majority of that is easily preventable.”
The report recommends that to achieve this goal that Units of Dental Activity, or UDAs, could be carried forward and used for initiatives for preventative programs including fluoride varnishing in schools.
UDAs are units of care by which dental practices receive payment from the NHS based on the type of care their patients require.
Each practice has a certain number of UDAs based on their contract with the NHS, if these UDAs go unused, the money is then subsumed back into the NHS for use elsewhere—potentially not even for oral health. Councillor Nick Denys
(picture courtesy of Hillingdon Council)
Cllr. Denys said: “These contracts contain a load of other requirements so even though everyone agrees that they need to be rewritten, no one wants to do so, in case other things unravel. Hence why, in London alone, £10m a year that should be spent on free dental treatment isn’t."
He added: “Rather than recommending that all the contracts get revisited we decided to go for the administratively simpler system of redistributing the money that’s left over to local projects focused on preventative oral health programs.”
The report also has eight other recommendations ranging from taxes on soft drinks being ringfenced for children’s dental care to encouraging supervised brushing after meals at nurseries and Children’s Centres.
Cabinet member for Health and Social Care, Jane Palmer, Harefield (Con), and Leader of the Council, Ian Edwards, Eastcote and East Ruislip (Con), lauded the report, which was then agreed upon by the Cabinet.
Leader Ian Edwards, however, noted that the Cabinet had no direct control to enforce the report’s recommendations.
He said: “For us to give effect to this, it is through the Health and Wellbeing Board and elsewhere we only have influence for, rather than direct control. I know we are working exceptionally hard to maxmise our influence and ensure that the government structures are right to enable us to work closer and more effectively with our health colleagues.”
The report states that children in Hillingdon have a higher rate of dental decay than in the rest of England and the seventh highest rate of decay in London.
Oral health is seen as an indicator of overall health within the healthcare community and by the NHS.