Dental practices able to take on new NHS patients may wish to be aware that should they receive a request for registration from a patient of no fixed abode, they are able to claim reimbursement in the usual manner by entering the practice’s address as the patient’s address on Form FP17. The NHS Business Service Authority also requires that a note of having done this be added to the patient’s dental records.
In the UK, over 300,000 people are estimated to be homeless, including around 4,500 sleeping rough and over 70,000 households in temporary accommodation. Research by the charity Groundswell has shown that the prevalence of oral health problems among the homeless is much higher than in the general population.
In their survey of 260 homeless people in London, 90% reported problems with their mouths and 30% were suffering dental pain. While half of the 70% who reported having lost teeth since becoming homeless had had teeth removed by a medical professional, a quarter of those who had lost teeth had done so due to acts of violence, almost as many had extracted their own teeth, and 7% of the sample were edentulous.
While participants demonstrated a high regard for dentists and their work, 58% were not clear on their right to NHS dentistry, and despite the higher prevalence of poor dental health, the proportion accessing a dentist was lower than in the general population – with only 23% having visited in the previous six months, and 39% in the previous year.
While 36% said they were currently ‘registered’ with a dentist, 31% said they had unsuccessfully attempted to sign up with a practice, 27% had been to Accident & Emergency with dental problems, and a quarter of participants had not been to the dentist for over 5 years.
Earlier this year, Public Health England published CPD for healthcare professionals on major public health challenges. The e-learning sessions, including one on supporting those experiencing homelessness, are available free of charge via NHS England's e-Learning for Healthcare platform at www.e-lfh.org.uk/programmes/all-our-health.