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20.09.19

British Dental Association to protect children who miss dental appointments

Community and special care dentistry experts at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have helped to develop a toolkit as a way to safeguard children and young people who miss healthcare appointments.

The new project has been launched by the British Dental Association to give the benefit of the doubt to young people who cannot make their appointment, often through no fault of their own.

The toolkit was first tried and tested at Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, where healthcare professionals were encouraged to take a more compassionate approach to missed healthcare appointments, including dental.

The normal approach of marking a child as “did not attend” on their record can often result in them having a harder time obtaining future appointments, or being struck off the record all together.

The argument is that not only are the children not to blame, but in some cases missed appointments in children could be a sign of neglect. The new pathway is the first of its kind to appreciate that children do not “call the shots” when it comes to NHS appointments.

The step-by-step guide, now published in the British Dental Journal is available for all dentist and teams to use. It provides a flowchart and downloadable template letters in order to

It offers a flowchart for action and downloadable template letters to help the team adopt a standardised approach safeguarding young patients from things beyond their control. It will help practices to identify at each stage of the process, which other healthcare professionals they need to communicate and share information with if they are worried about patients facing dental neglect.

Jenny Harris, senior consultant in paediatric dentistry at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals said:

“Every child has a fundamental right to healthcare. When children miss healthcare appointments, including dental appointments, it may be a sign of neglect and should be followed up rigorously as part of safeguarding and promoting their welfare.

“We are delighted that our work has been recognised nationally and is now being shared widely with dental practitioners by the British Dental Association.”

Charlotte Waite, chair of the BDA’s England Community Dental Services Committee said: “Young children do not call the shots on attending appointments, so for many health professionals treating them the term “did not attend” has never been applicable.”

A test carried out by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals in 2016 using the ‘was not brought’ toolkit showed that out of 1,238 dental appointments, 134 were missed by 91 children.   By applying the new pathway, three-quarters of missed appointments were rebooked within three weeks after communication with parents.

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