The BDA has launched a new toolkit to support the safeguarding of children and young people who miss appointments, often for reasons beyond their control.
Representing a break from the 'did not attend' pathway, the new approach which was first developed by community dentistry professionals at Charles Clifford Dental Services, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, recognises that children do not 'call the shots' on whether they attend appointments. The 'was not brought' pathway, 'WNB-CYP', was published in the British Dental Journal and is now available for all dentists and teams to use via the BDA website.
The toolkit is a step-by-step guide to managing the pathway in dental practices. It offers a flowchart for action and downloadable template letters to help the team follow a standardised approach which will keep young patients safe. It will help practices to identify at each stage of the process, which other healthcare professionals they need to communicate and share information with if they are worried about patients facing dental neglect.
The pathway was developed by Jenny Harris, Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry working in Community and Special Care Dentistry at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, recognised in 2018 as an NSPCC Honorary Member of Council for pioneering work in safeguarding children, including developing Child Protection and the Dental Team; and Jen Kirby, Leadership Fellow and Speciality Registrar in Paediatric Dentistry, whose work on the project was funded by Health Education England.
Charlotte Waite, Chair of the BDA's England Community Dental Services Committee, said: "This new pathway is an important step forward to keeping children and young people safe.
"Young children do not call the shots on attending appointments, so for many health professionals treating them the term "did not attend" has never been applicable. This 'was not brought' toolkit is designed to help the whole dental team, and provide practical help on making this important distinction.
"The toolkit supports the whole dental team to work together on implementing this pathway, empowering them to be alert, when children are not brought to appointments.
"We are proud to offer a framework that will help any colleagues treating all children and young people. From primary to secondary care, high street to community practice, it provides everything needed to prompt dental teams to look out for children who miss appointments who may be victims of neglect"
Jenny Harris said: "We started by wanting to share information more promptly and consistently with other professionals when children weren't brought for appointments. I was exasperated that despite our best efforts some vulnerable children still slipped through the net.
"I worried it was might be an insoluble problem but, somewhat unexpectedly, the pathway was an instant hit! Our team found it easy to learn, they felt supported in their decision-making, and yet it didn't add to their daily workload.
"We are fortunate to have fantastic support from our Safeguarding Department which gives us the confidence to try new approaches. We are now delighted that the BDA is helping us share more widely what we've found useful."
Jen Kirby said: "I came in to evaluate the pathway and help roll it out to other clinics. It was amazing to see how the whole team embraced change and took ownership, with receptionists taking on a key role.
"The staff themselves were surprised how a simple change in terminology from 'Did Not Attend' (DNA) to 'was not brought' (WNB) inspired a dramatic change in their attitude. They focussed more on putting the child's interests at the centre of their response."