Dental services across the country have resumed but available slots and appointments have been significantly reduced due to COVID safety measures to keep patients and staff safe. We have introduced a new pathway system at HUC, which helps to identify patients calling NHS 111 with a dental problem sooner and makes the overall patient experience for dental cases much smoother.
HUC provides dental triage across Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough and Luton & Bedfordshire. Callers with dental problems, are triaged clinically by a Dental Nurse, who assesses and advises them, based on their symptoms. In some areas we cover, they can also book patients into appointments should they require emergency dental care. Previously, a patient would have had to undergo an NHS Pathways assessment, an algorithm that helps our call handlers assess the patient’s outcome dependent on a range of questions. Last year, we introduced a new pathway which helps to identify patients calling NHS 111 with a dental problem sooner and makes the overall patient experience for dental cases much smoother.
“Most patients are in pain when they call, and they need help. Listening to them and understanding their concerns is extremely important as we physically don’t offer dental care,” says Yasmin Allen, our Dental Clinical Lead. “They need that reassurance that they are going to be attended to – in some cases, especially with the restricted access to dental care during COVID-19, they have struggling to get advice. When there’s somebody at the other end of the phone who’ll listen to them and support them, it is quite valuable,” Yasmin explains.
As a result of limited access to dental practices, NHS 111 calls relating to dental issues have increased as has the complexity of cases. Indeed, the past year has demonstrated that pressures on NHS 111 increase if access to dental treatments is compromised.
To manage the situation, we have worked closely with our Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS England, relaying service data and information to assist with wider service planning strategy. We have also increased our dental nurse team capacity, recruiting an additional seven colleagues.
HUC is a great place for a dental practitioner. “You get a lot of experience and it’s challenging, but in a good way. There is career progression and growth, because lots of different dental issues get thrown at you and that just makes you very efficient in being able to deal with things very quickly,” says Yasmin, who’s role in the organisation involves training and supporting with professional development for our dental nurses, as well as other HUC colleagues, making sure there is a wide awareness of dental issues.
A huge thank you to all our hard working and passionate dental colleagues at HUC – you are vital to the patient communities we serve.