The following letter has been written in collaboration with dentists, dental organisations and other homelessness organisations (including Pathway, Groundswell, Streets Kitchen, Den-Tech and Dentaid) in response to the article published in the Guardian on Saturday 28th July in which people experiencing homelessness were described by Mick Armstrong, who chairs the British Dental Association as “no hopers” in the context of the current NHS contract.
The letter is a reassurance to both the public and people experiencing homelessness that despite frustrations about the current dental contract there is hope and that good work is taking place across the country through a range of innovative initiatives to provide accessible care for vulnerable people.
We invite all people working in dentistry, health and homelessness services to sign the letter.
In a recent article published in the Guardian, the head of the British Dental Association referred to people experiencing homelessness as “no hopers” in the context of current dental commissioning. We – a coalition of members of the dental profession, dental charities and homelessness outreach organisations – strongly reject the message that this article is sending to vulnerable individuals and the wider public.
The chaotic and dangerous nature of homelessness can make it difficult for individuals to be at a certain place at a certain time. This is not a failing to be condemned, but a challenge to be met: it is our professional responsibility to make services more easily accessible to the growing number of vulnerable people in our society.
Commissioning models need to be sufficiently flexible to embrace innovative approaches to providing high quality care to those most at need, examples include Community Dental Services who provide dental care for homeless people at multiple locations across the country. Based in Plymouth, Peninsula Dental School offers free dental care at four locations, and supports dental students to provide outreach advice at local homeless shelters. Den-Tech provides same-day denture services for people experiencing homelessness. In Manchester, Revive Dental Care offers drop-in dental clinics for vulnerable people. Dentaid holds free monthly clinics in Southampton and their ‘mobile dental unit’ visits night shelters and soup kitchens around the country.
In November, these and many others will meet in Birmingham for the ‘Homeless and Inclusion Oral Health’ conference, organised by homeless health charity Pathway. The commitment of these groups is beyond doubt, but their tireless efforts should not give space to government to ignore its responsibility to commission adequate healthcare services.
Instead, we should marry lessons learned in these contexts to resources available within the NHS, and push for greater inclusion at all levels: policy, commissioning, education, training, service design, and inter-professional collaboration.
Until then, we will continue to share experience and resources, establish new partnerships, and innovate in delivering services to members of our society whose requirements are not easily met by existing structures. We believe strongly that there is hope.
If you are a dentist or are working with homeless people to improve oral health please contact us and join the Inclusive Dentistry Group. Email: [email protected]
This letter has been co-signed by the following dentists, dental organisations and homelessness charities (including Pathway, Groundswell, Streets Kitchen, Den-Tech and Dentaid).
Janine Doughty, University College London / Pathway Homeless Healthcare Charity / Crisis at Christmas Dental Service Deputy Service Organiser
Jon Glackin, Streets Kitchen
Matt Downie, Director of Policy and Social Affairs, Crisis
Professor Andrew Hayward, University College London / Pathway Homeless Healthcare Charity
Professor Ruth Freeman, University of Dundee
Vanessa Muirhead, Clinical Senior Lecturer, Barts and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Jack Monroe, Author
Martin Burrows, Groundswell
Al Story, UCLH Find and Treat Service Lead
Natalie Bradley, Community Dental Service
Ben Atkins, Revive Dental Care
Janine Brooks, Director of the Dental Coaching Academy
Stan Burridge, Pathway Experts by Experience Lead
Fiona Ellwood, Patron of Society for British Dental Nurses
Nicholas Ransford, Clinical Director of Birmingham Community Dental Service
Jill Harding, Dentaid
Laura Daly, DCT2 in dental public health
Professor Christophe Bedos , McGill University, Montreal
Frances O’Leary, DCT3 Paediatric dentistry
Pippasha Khan, Dental student, Kings College London
Andreas Johnson, Chair of Den-Tech Denture Charity
Professor Blanaid Daly, Professor in Special Care Dentistry, Trinity College Dublin
Renato Venturelli Garay, Research Assistant UCL
Sara Harford, Clinical Fellow
Nadia Khalique, Dental Hygienist / therapist
Holly Bretel, StR in Special Care Dentistry
Mehdi Yazdi, Principal dentist Crown Bank Dental practice
Jo Dick, Registrar in Special Care Dentistry
Deborah Manger, Deputy Medical Director & Specialist in Special Care Dentistry for NHFT
Zana Khan, GP in homeless and inclusion health
David Conway, Professor of Dental Public Health, University of Glasgow
Caoimhin MacGiolla Phadraig, Special Care Dentist, Dublin Dental University Hospital
Esther Stephenson, Dental Core Trainee in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Neil Martin, Specialist in Special Care Dentistry/DCT East Anglia Training Programme Advisor
Samina Nayani, StR Special Care Dentistry, Kings College Hospital
Alexander Holden, University of Sydney
Nahush Shah, Senior Registrar in Orthodontics / Service Lead for Crisis at Christmas
Dorothea Hackman, Euston Foodbank
David Croser, General Dental Practitioner
Rob Whitton, Peninsula Dental School
Martha Paisi, Peninsula Dental School
Serena Luchenski, NIHR/HEE Clinical Research Fellow and Honorary Public Health Consultant
Mili Doshi, Consultant in Special Care Dentistry
Laura Gartshore, Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry
Maryam Ahmadyar, Community Dental Officer
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, Stoke
Matthew Turtle, Museum of Homelessness
Art Hindocha, Senior Registrar in Orthodontics
Jessica Turtle, Chair of Trustees, Simon Community
Gabriel Galia, Wellcome Clinical Research Career Development Fellow
Daniel Stone, Labour Councillor for Stroud Green, Haringey
Jackie Bird, Director of Joanna Project
Andrea Rodriguez, Senior Research Fellow – Homelessness (Advocacy and Policy) Smile4life Programme
Norma Smart, Specialist in Special Care Dentistry
Sam Joseph, Street Vet co-founder
Jade Statt, Street Vet co-founder
Melissa Scott, Service Lead, Homeless Health Service, Bournemouth
Rachel Cullen, Simon Community
Bhavik Patel, Integrated Clinical Fellow, Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Brooke Zaidman, SpR in Special Care Denistry
Jenny Lawson and others, Nag’s Head Solidarity Centre Womens Group
Garima Arora, Research Assistant, University of Dundee
Paul Jackman, Still Human Outreach
Nikki Kenyon, Manchester: Life On The Streets
Louise McTernan, Outreach worker Manchester
Derek Richards, President British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry