A pilot programme in which pharmacists offer oral health advice to patients while they wait for prescriptions is due to be rolled out across the north east of England.
The scheme, which was run by the University of Sunderland and the public health team at Durham County Council, was initially tested in five community pharmacies in County Durham in 2016, with participating patients being given five-minute consultations while waiting for their prescriptions. Pharmacists offering the consultations gave the patients advice on how to brush their teeth properly, checked they were using the right dental hygiene products and provided information on how to look after teeth and gums.
A survey of the 1,089 patients who took part — the results of which were published in the British Dental Journal in September 2017 — showed that 72% reported that their knowledge of oral health improved as a result of the intervention, while 66% said that they would definitely makes changes to their oral health habits following their consultation.
Meanwhile, a further 64% said a pharmacy was definitely the right place to receive oral health advice.
As a result of this success, the project is now being rolled out across the north east of England.
Andrew Sturrock, programme leader for the Master of Pharmacy programme at the University of Sunderland’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said he worked with Durham County Council’s public health team to develop the project “based on my research looking at the role of community pharmacies, who are well trained healthcare professionals, easily accessible and frequently visited by patients”.
He added that pharmacists provide “a little-explored avenue for the delivery of oral health interventions”.
“We already know there are lots of people who don’t have a dentist, have phobias about dental treatment or avoid regular check-ups, especially in deprived areas.”
According to the University of Sunderland, the NHS in England spends £3.4bn annually on “poor oral health”.
Sturrock added that the scheme could save “millions on NHS treatment”.
In a statement, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said while it was not aware of other local pharmacist-led oral health schemes, 80% of staff working at pharmacies in England are now required to have successfully completed the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education children’s oral health training assessment, which is a requirement under the most recent Quality Payments review point in February 2019.
The PSNC added that pharmacies will also be required to take part in ‘Smile Month’ — one of the six mandatory public health campaign topics for 2019/2020 — which will run from mid-May 2019 to mid-June 2019.