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Smiles all around as lecturer delivers mouth care that matters

Date 18.12.2019

Northamptonshire is smiling thanks to a University lecturer and county partners who are on a mission to improve people’s health by focusing on a neglected area of the body.

Since September Nicky Peasnell – Senior Lecturer in Dental Nursing – has delivered Mouth Care Matters oral health training to 162 first year nursing students.

Mouth Care Matters is a Health Education England project tasked with training health and care staff to be more responsive to the oral health needs of hospital patients or those in community care.

They are trained to check people’s oral health, talk with them about this and confidently carry out oral health interventions – such as helping people brush their teeth, cleaning their dentures – and how to use the right tools to do this.

The training now sits within the nursing curriculum at the University for first year nursing students, giving them an extra skill and saving hospitals the need to provide this training after they graduate.

This training has also been extended to students in Midwifery, Social Care, Early Years and Nursing Associate programmes.

The University’s partner for Mouth Care Matters is Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT) who have trained more than 500 staff, volunteers and others to be ‘mouth care ready’.

Good oral health has been shown to significantly reduce the amount of time patients spend in hospital, as having oral infections or issues spotted and dealt with means they are less likely to develop other complications whilst on the wards, such as pneumonia.

This in turn can reduce the need for antibiotics and lower the incidence of acquiring other infections, meaning patients spend less time in hospital.

Nicky said: “Good oral health care is something I have been busy communicating to people for some years now, so taking the message about Mouth Care Matters to all new and future first year nursing students was something I was thoroughly happy and prepared to do.

“It’s been a busy few months but now we are putting the mouth ‘back in the body’, equipping our students to give even better care to their patients – as well as themselves – and act as oral health ambassadors with their friends and families.

“Moving forward, I’m looking at how to further develop the students’ knowledge and skills in year two, focusing on the specific needs of patients within the four nursing fields.”

Erica Birch-Abban, Mental Health Nursing student, said: “I have to admit, although I take care of my own oral health, I never really thought about checking this with my patients, or helping them with something so day-to-day like cleaning their teeth or dentures.

“But after the training, I came away with a real drive to do this – I never realised how important it was. And I’m already spreading the word about this far and wide!”

Denise Birkett, Mouth Care Matters Lead at NHFT added: “Spreading the Mouth Care Matters guidance and training to the student nurses at the University has been a fantastic initiative as it means that student nurses coming to care for patients are able to assess patients’ mouths, determine what level of mouth care they require and then give that mouth care or refer on.

“Working with Nicky has enabled us to train the students with the local paperwork and products used, therefore making it easier to translate this learning into practice in the clinical setting.

“Delivering effective mouth care to our patients not only enhances patient dignity and experience it also improves their nutrition and hydration. We have demonstrated locally that implementing Mouth Care Matters has reduced the risk of patients developing hospital acquired pneumonia. It has also led to a reduced usage of the antibiotic to treat this.

“As demonstrated by Holly Slyne’s excellent oral health drive at Northampton General Hospital, one ward reduced specific antibiotics to treat pneumonia by 41%, which has protected patients from the complications of antibiotics, e.g. C.difficile infection.

“So, we have had smiles all round from our nurses, our student nurses and most importantly from our patients!”

For further information contact NHFT directly: dental.health@nhft.nhs.uk

Find out more about Mouth Care Matters.

Find out more about the University of Northampton’s Nursing degrees.