Cabinet minister James Cleverly MP has praised the work of the University of Plymouth and Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE) CIC in offering free dental treatment to people currently experiencing homelessness in the city
The minister without portfolio and chairman of the Conservative Party visited the Devonport Dental Education Facility last Thursday afternoon.
Along with Conservative Plymouth councillor and prospective parliamentary candidate Rebecca Smith, he met staff and students from the university, the Peninsula Dental School and PDSE and heard about community engagement work including the weekly community clinic.
The centre, which is run by the University and PDSE, is one of four across Devon and Cornwall where students from Peninsula Dental School treat patients under the supervision of qualified and experienced dental health professionals.
Improving oral health and access to dental care
Alongside its education role, PDSE focuses on improving oral health and access to dental care for those groups who may feel excluded from mainstream dentistry, including homeless people.
Feedback from community clinic patients has shown attendance has a transformative effect, not only in terms of pain relief and motivation to look after their teeth, but also feelings of confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.
Mr Cleverly said: ‘It was fantastic to hear from staff and students at PDSE about the excellent community-focused training at the University of Plymouth.
‘The way the university is supporting homeless people in the city is inspirational and should be celebrated.’
Unique dentistry for the homeless
Robert Witton, director of social engagement and community-based dentistry at University of Plymouth Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and chief executive of PDSE said: ‘There are only a small number of providers offering a service like this for people experiencing homelessness and our community- supported model of delivery is unique.
‘We use link workers in the community and a non-clinical outreach approach to engage with individuals as people rather than as patients first before their dental journey begins.
‘As a committed social enterprise we currently provide this service as a pro bono contribution to the local community recognising this group of people are not able to access care easily through other NHS routes.’
Cllr Rebecca Smith, conservative parliamentary candidate for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said: ‘It was inspiring to meet with students and hear their journeys into dentistry and to meet staff working to support the homeless, children in local schools and veterans.
‘I will continue to raise the profile of their work here in Plymouth and the need for more funding for local dental services, both as a candidate and if elected to serve the city in Parliament.’