Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) has launched a tool to help dental practices maximise and effectively use all of the skills of their team members when it comes to delivering high-quality care.
The Skills Optimiser Self-Evaluation Tool (SOSET), developed in collaboration with the Cardiff Unit for Research and Evaluation in Medical and Dental Education (CUREMeDE), encourages dental teams, including dentists and dental care professionals (DCPs), to put teamwork at the forefront of their approach to delivering effective oral healthcare.
It is widely accepted that dental practices perform more effectively when everyone works as a team and feels able to discuss issues constructively. SOSET allows everyone in the practice to think about their role in providing high-quality, patient-centred healthcare.
Research suggests that as much as 73% of treatment in general dental practices could be carried out by DCPs – dental nurses, hygienists, therapists, and technicians – freeing up dentists’ time to provide advanced care to patients with more complex needs.
Facilitated by a HEIW Quality Improvement Educator and involving the whole team, dental practices can use SOSET to create an action plan of priorities, and to delegate responsibilities between all team members. The tool also encourages the attainment of goals, better communication, and can help teams find gaps where improvements can be made.
Since using the tool at her dental practice in Aberdare, Dr Parul Sood says her team of DCPs are now looking forward to developing their roles further and taking on more responsibility regarding patient care.
Dr Sood added: “The staff now better realise the importance of teamwork, and have been working more efficiently as a result.
“The team have also gained a better understanding of what the future of NHS dentistry could look like, and what roles they can take over as dental nurses. They realise that the practice management is interested in their development, and they are very excited to learn new skills.
“I would recommend other dental practices across Wales use SOSET in order to identify and use the potential skills of their staff to the best of their ability.”
SOSET’s approach of delegation and maximising skills within the team fits in with the Welsh Government’s ambitions for prudent healthcare, giving patients more time to see the appropriate dentist or DCP.
Kathryn Marshall, Quality Improvement Educator at HEIW, explained: “Making sure that dental team members (other than dentists) are able to work to their maximum skill level frees up clinical capacity elsewhere in the team.
“Dental practitioners will have more time and availability to improve patient access to other treatment needs such as restorative, endodontics, and paediatric dentistry.
“Patients will benefit from experiencing a step up in prevention, making use of a dental service that is fit for purpose for future generations, and care from a skilled and motivated dental team.”
Read more about the tool here