The Health Department is searching for volunteers to help it resolve longstanding issues in local dental services, including reducing waiting times and inequalities in access to care.
Successful applicants will form part of a small group of between six and 10 people to talk about their experiences and proposed plans for the service, and complete surveys.
The appeal is part of the Health and Community Services’ ‘Oral Health Strategy’ which aims to improve the quality of services by reducing waiting lists and inequalities in the access to dental care, as well as reducing the number of people suffering dental decay and oral cancer.
Issues with the local dental services have been ongoing for several years, particularly for children.
Express revealed in 2017 that some parents were having to pay thousands in private dental care for their children due to “excessive” waiting times of up to five years. At the time, a survey by dental health promotion charity Super Smiles found that half of children aged five had never visited the dentist, while around 3,000 children had never been registered with one.
Parents have recently taken to social media, lamenting that waiting lists remain years-long, with one local mum on Twitter explaining that, after two years, she was still unclear as to when the wait would end.
Pictured: Waiting times for children dental appointments remain lengthy with some parents reporting recently they had been waiting for two years.
Others mentioned they had chosen to go private to ensure the treatment for their child was started at the right time, with another parent describing the waiting times as “unbelievable for an island this wealthy."
Earlier this year, a question in the States Assembly revealed that the number of children from low-income backgrounds benefiting from the Jersey Dental Fitness Scheme had been steadily declining for six years, with “weaknesses” identified in 2015 still to be rectified.
The scheme, which was introduced to assist parents with the cost of dental treatment, sees the Government pay a monthly fee for each child on the scheme, which is topped up by a parental contribution set by the he dentist.
In 2015, 1,065 children were on the scheme but their number reach just 747 last year, a drop of nearly a third.
Addressing the decline in the number of beneficiaries, the Social Security Minister, Deputy Judy Martin, told Express that the development of a new “dental strategy” was currently underway.
She said it should include a model to improve services for children, that will seek “to secure good standards of oral health and the prevention of dental disease through health promotion and the creation of care pathways", she said.
Pictured: Caries and dental extraction prevention are among key themes in the Jersey Care Model.
Prevention is one of the key themes for dental services in the future Jersey Care Model. The document notes that Community Dental Services represents 5.3% of all outpatient activity at the hospital with 10,000 appointments worth just over £1.5 million in 2018 - the majority of which were routine dental appointments and procedures for children aged 12 and under.
The Care Model calls for prevention of dental caries in children as well as preventative early years programmes such as nutrition and dental health to reduce the number of under 18s who require a dental extraction.
It also suggests moving Community Dental Service outpatients to community dental practices to provide dental appointments out of the hospital.
On the newly-launched hunt for volunteers to help "transform and improve" the dental system, Consultant Radiologist Dr Nicholas Dodds said: “We want to better understand people’s dental care needs and by becoming a patient representative Islanders can help drive the future of dental care forward and keep Jersey smiling.
“Whether you are a patient, or a carer for someone who has used our services and want to help make them better, we hope you become a volunteer and take part in our focus groups and feedback sessions. Your thoughts and views are welcome.”
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