«Photo Simon Evans Zoe Matthews Strategic Health Improvement Manager Friends Families and Travellers Thelma Edwards Oral Health Promotion Co-ordinator ...»
A Collaborative Programme to
Improve the Oral Health of the
Gypsy and Travelling
Communities in Sussex
Photo Simon Evans
Strategic Health Improvement Manager
Friends Families and Travellers
Oral Health Promotion Co-ordinator
West Sussex Community Personal Dental Services
West Sussex Health
Oral Health Promotion Manager
South Downs Health
Oral Health Promotion Manager
East Sussex Special Care
BACKGROUNDThis programme was funded by Communities for Health following a successful bid by Friends Families and Travellers (FFT) to Brighton and Hove City Council Public Health Programme. Funding commenced April 2009 for one year to March 2010.
This programme was initiated by FFT, a small national charity that works on behalf of Gypsies and Travellers. It has considerable experience and knowledge of this client group and currently runs a health outreach service in Brighton & Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex in order to help Gypsies and Travellers access mainstream health services.
Photo FFT Their funding proposal highlighted that Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are recognised as ethnic minorities for the purposes of the Race Relations Act yet they experience the worst health outcomes of any minority ethnic group in the UK. FFT reported that from their work with Travelling communities over many years there is strong anecdotal evidence that Gypsies and Travellers suffer huge oral and dental health problems resulting in hospital intervention.
For example, a case of two children who required over 30 teeth removed between them under general anaesthetic. A referral was made to children’s services as the children were being given a bottle of calpol a day in order to quell the pain of their rotten, blackened stubs. One of the children had not eaten a solid meal for a number of years, as it was too painful. Much of this problem is caused by ignorance and a lack of accessible information.
On another occasion a toddler was being fed cola and ambrosia custard through a bottle resulting in obesity problems as well as dental problems.
There is evidence of inequity of dental health and dental service use with 2 more disadvantage being experienced by Travellers on unauthorised and transit sites.
There has been little research into the oral health needs of Gypsies and Travellers, but the research project below correlates with the anecdotal evidence gained from outreach workers and practitioners ‘Oral health care in the lives of Gypsy Travellers in east Hertfordshire.’ D.M Edwards, R.G Watt Department of Public Health, Bedfordshire Health, Luton.
From over five years of outreach work with Gypsies and Travellers across Sussex, FFT have found that a targeted approach using community advocates is the most effective tool for change. This model of outreach work is recognized as a model of innovation and Best practice by the Equalities and Human Rights Department within the Department of Health. The oral health improvement programme was designed to follow this outreach work model.
As FFT serves communities across the whole of Sussex, this presented an opportunity for the oral health promotion teams in the 3 Primary Care Trusts (PCT) to collaborate in training and resourcing the outreached workers.
PLANNING The team first met in February 2009 to discuss the needs and design a programme to begin to improve the oral health of the families in the Gypsy and Traveller communities in their areas. This programme was to be delivered via the FFT Outreach Workers.
The determinants of poor oral health were identified as:
• Lack of accessible, culturally appropriate information.
1. Provide culturally sensitive oral health awareness training for eight members of the Friends, Families and Travellers organisation.
2. Train one of their outreach workers as an Oral Health Advocate (OHA) for her community.
3. Design and print simple and appropriate education materials for use by the outreach workers.
4. Provide visual aids to support the OHA in her work.
5. Encourage the habit of oral hygiene by provision of oral hygiene packs for the OW to distribute as she gives the information on brushing.
6. Provide cultural awareness for dental teams in Sussex.
7. Identify access to dental care across Sussex for the Gypsy and Travelling communities.
8. Write up the programme as an example of good practice and report to SHA and DH.
EVALUATION It was decided that this programme would require a more qualitative approach
to evaluation. The following outcomes were proposed:
1. Knowledge would be gained through the training sessions for outreach workers and could be evaluated post training.
2. The Oral Health Advocate would be trained and working in her community.
3. A leaflet in accessible format would be designed and printed by the end of the year’s funding.
4. A visual aid toolkit would be created by the OHA for use in her outreach work.
5. The number of oral hygiene packs distribution, number of people visited by Marya, and number of people signposted successfully to dental care provision will be counted.
6. Arrange cultural awareness sessions for dental teams in Sussex.
7. Map the provision of dental care in Sussex.
8. The final report will include case studies will provide snapshots for process evaluation and recommendations will be made for sustainability of the programme when the funded year is completed.
METHOD Five review meetings were held to enable changes to be made during the course of the year. These also identified a wider network of meetings to which a representative was sent to raise oral health awareness within the network.
Training sessions were arranged for the FFT outreach workers, the OHA became operational and resources created over time. The review meetings also identified opportunities for Gypsy and Traveller awareness to be delivered to the dental teams in Sussex.
During this time, a hand-held health record was being designed, through a Department of Health initiative aimed at addressing health inequalities in different areas. The programme known as Pacesetters produced ‘The Blue Book’, which is being piloted in East Sussex and oral health issues were discussed as being included in this record book to enable continuity of dental care to be delivered when members of the Gypsy or Traveller community moved area.
THE WEST SUSSEX PERSPECTIVE
At the time of this programme, each of the three areas in Sussex represented by the three oral health promotion teams have different commissioning of dental services. The demography is also very diverse, along with number of sites, access to dental care, and oral health promotion activities undertaken within each area. The detail of the activity within each area will therefore vary.
This is the West Sussex perspective.
AWARENESS RAISINGAwareness raising was required in two ways;
1. Raising awareness of the dental need of Gypsies and Travellers to those outside the dental profession, including the PCT, health professionals, community workers, education service, and the Gypsy and Travellers themselves.
2. Raising cultural awareness of Gypsies and Travellers within the dental team in West Sussex.
Opportunities were taken at WSCPDS staff meetings, and by informal discussion with staff, to raise cultural awareness and also the challenges of meeting the dental needs of Gypsies and Travellers.
Some of the staff also attended a study day where Zoe and Marya presented and opportunity was taken at that meeting to discuss issues of access to dental care in West Sussex with the Clinical Director. At that time it was possible for the salaried part of the service to offer treatment to adults as well as children and emergency dental care was available in Crawley, Worthing and Chichester. A new ethnic code was added to the computerised records for dental patients to enable access to care by Gypsies and Travellers to be 7 reported on. However, in the six months this has been in operation, only four patients from this group have been recorded. It is suspected that these figures are an underestimate. Patients are required to complete a standard NHS paper consent form for dental treatment which asks them to select an ethnic group. Gypsies and Travellers would be included in “Any other ethnic group” and only if this box is ticked, would the dentist ask for further information and record it on the computerised record.
However, since April 2010, the WSCPDS have received a new contract from the PCT commissioners which will affect adults from Gypsy and Traveller families being seen. The Service can now only offer appointments to children and special needs patients. Increased access to NHS dental treatment through contractual arrangements with General Dental Practitioners (GDPs) should enable adults to be seen by GDPs. This will leave the EDS for the treatment of dental emergencies only.
Regular reports were sent to West Sussex PCT over the course of the programme and this secured the highlighting of oral health need within the health needs assessment (HNA) specification for West Sussex. This HNA was awarded after the formal end of the programme but interviews between the researchers and Thelma Edwards took place in June 2010 when more detail of the oral health needs of the Gypsies and Travellers in West Sussex were identified and reference to this collaborative programme was made.
The WSCPDS Oral health promotion team have a strong link with the 60 Children and Family Centres (CFC) in West Sussex and much work has been done to ensure their staff are oral health aware. Some of the rural areas have a mobile used by the outreach workers who take the toy library and become a ‘one stop shop’ of information. They were welcomed by the Gypsies and Travellers onto two sites in West Sussex and this also provided an opportunity for the oral health promotion messages to be made available by the CFC staff. A small amount of funding was also provided by the CFC to provide oral health packs for these communities. The CFC was also made aware of the contact details of the FFT OHA to enable her to be contacted if support for an oral health need was identified.
8 During this time, through word of mouth, it was possible to identify health visiting teams who also visited the Gypsy and Travellers. This was initially difficult to do as there was no formal liaison health visitor and the lack of ethnic monitoring made it difficult for records to show which health visitors had contact with this community as they were absorbed in their case load.
However, by the end of the programme, and as many health visitors also link with the CFC, awareness of the provision of packs and the collaborative oral health improvement programme had spread across West Sussex and health visitors were requesting more packs.
Case Study of an example of improved access to dental care for a family in West Sussex as a result of the programme A Gypsy family accessed the Emergency Dental Service (EDS) one Sunday.
It was the 4 year old who was the patient on this occasion suffering a tooth abscess. On examination, the child was also found to have a lot of decay, probably requiring multiple extractions under general anaesthetic. The EDS’s role is to get a patient out of pain and refer them back to the own dentist for further treatment. However, this child did not have a dentist so could potentially be lost to follow-up. If she had been from a non-travelling family and she had gone back to her dentist, it was likely she would have been referred back to the West Sussex Community Personal Dental Services (WSCPDS) for assessment for a GA. When this was done, the child’s health visitor would have been informed and they could have looked into the oral health needs of the younger sibling. There is evidence that, where one child has poor oral health, their siblings would be at similar risk of tooth decay so may benefit from oral health promotion support. Early intervention could prevent decay. However, this would not happen for this family.
The dental nurse on duty that morning had recently attended a Gypsy and Travellers awareness raising session as part of the pan-Sussex Gypsy and Traveller project and was keen to ensure the family received the dental care they needed so she arranged for the child to be referred directly to the WSCPDS, even though it appeared the family were only staying with a relative in West Sussex. It was thought they usually lived in Kent. The child was later assessed in Haywards Heath Dental Clinic and underwent a general anaesthetic for the removal of multiple decayed teeth in St Richards Hospital, 9 Chichester. The referring dental officer requested that the opportunity to provide additional oral health promotion messages and support was taken at the time of the general anaesthetic session so a member of the OHP team spent time with the family explaining the importance of oral hygiene, a healthy diet and regular checkups with a dentist. Toothbrushes and toothpaste were also given for the whole family.
The mother expressed a strong desire to see the same dentist for her own dental needs but as this dentist does not see adult patients, only the children were offered appointments at HHHC. However, the family wanted to be seen as unit and this was offered at Crawley hospital. The family said they were very happy to accept this and all the family details including social history, grandmother’s address and father's mobile were referred to the WSCPDS clinic at Crawley Hospital. The family had an appointment with for January but they had to cancel on their way to the appointment due to the snow that day. They were given further appointments at that time for 31st March. A message was left on the mobile number to confirm the day before the appointment but unfortunately the appointment was missed. There has been no further contact with this family.