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Supporting dental practices to make best use of the whole dental team

Developing self-evaluation tools to review skill-mix in dental teams.

Dentist examining patient

With an ageing population, high levels of tooth decay in children and poor access to NHS dental services in parts of Wales, urgent action is needed to improve service delivery in dental teams.

Following the Welsh Government’s dental contract reform, with planned changes in how dentistry is funded, dental teams need to undertake skill-mix reviews. This will ensure they are able to meet patient needs, and make full use of dental care professionals in the future delivery of services.

Improved skill-mix in teams allows dental technicians to utilise the full scope of their skills. This then frees up highly skilled dentists for complex treatments, reduces waiting times and improves access to services.

However, optimising skill-mix is a complex and challenging undertaking, with dental teams requiring support to understand their skill-mix and make best use of limited NHS funding.

A team of researchers at Cardiff University developed and pilot-tested a toolkit, created to help dental teams review their skill-mix in order to reach the Welsh Government’s reformed contract.

The tool

The skills-optimised self-evaluation toolkit (SOSET) was developed as part of a project funded by Health & Care Research Wales (HCRW).

It was developed through a review of existing literature and case studies of dental practices, along with the development of educational activities and tools.

Pilot testing

The SOSET was pilot-tested with 11 practices across South Wales, using defined criteria relevant to skill-mix in dental practice.

Feedback was collected from 92 participants of the pilot tests. The results showed that the SOSET was straightforward, used clear language, was beneficial and would be used by dental teams to improve practice.

Quality Improvement tutors from the Wales Deanery participated in the pilot. Their feedback recommended reducing the paperwork and condensing the SOSET.

As a result, the number of domains and criteria were reduced and enhanced the SOSET’s suitability as a lunchtime exercise.

Ensuring dental therapists are appropriately trained and delivering an optimum skill-mix in dental teams results in enhanced cost efficiency, productivity, patient safety as well as improved patient access and oral health.

The SOSET is now available through the Dental Postgraduate Section of the Wales Deanery. At facilitated SOSET meetings, dental teams are helped to review their skill-mix and set goals. The process has been designed to assist organisational change and team development.

Our impact

Through this research, significant barriers to the optimisation of skill-mix in dental practice were identified.

Dental teams are now using the SOSET to set objectives for optimising the skill-mix within their teams in order to fulfil changing patient needs and the NHS dental contract reform.

Meet our experts

Professor Alison Bullock

Professor Alison Bullock

Director of Research, Professor - CUREMeDE

+44 (0) 29 2087 0780