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Why every mouth matters to Stephanie

Stephanie Gillies

Dental Nurse Stephanie Gillies is University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust’s (UHMBT) lead for the Mouth Care Matters training initiative which promotes improved oral health in adult inpatients.

Mouth Care Matters aims to create a healthcare team that is more responsive and personalised for patients and delivers better clinical outcomes, bringing an increased awareness of the importance of good mouth care and how it impacts on general health and quality of life.

Stephanie’s mission is to ensure that staff on every ward across the Trust can deliver good oral health to their patients, especially those with dementia, those who have suffered a stroke and end of life care patients.

So far, Stephanie has trained 24 staff as Oral Health Champions across all wards at Furness General Hospital (FGH), around her full-time role as a dental nurse. She has also delivered 11 presentations to health professionals in hospital and in the community.

She has also introduced Mouth Care Matters trollies on the wards at FGH, which include products such as 360 degrees toothbrushes, toothpastes and oral gels to soothe mouth ulcers.

She said: “I am so passionate about the Mouth Care Matters programme and our patients having clean and comfortable mouths because it is a basic human right. It’s vital to me to be able to train as many staff as I can to bring them up to speed on the importance of good mouth care for our patients to improve patient care and safety.

“By checking a patient’s oral hygiene you can identify other issues that are going on such as fungal infections, oral cancer, plaque, mouth ulcers and even severe infections, which could be detrimental to a patient’s survival if not treated in time.

“If a patient with dementia is wearing false teeth and they are not cleaned properly then they could get hospital acquired pneumonia from the bugs on the denture, which in turn costs the Trust more money if a patient has to stay in hospital longer.”

Stephanie, who has over 30 years’ experience as a dental nurse and has worked with the Trust since 2013, added: “Good oral health is also important for patient safety, dignity and ability to communicate and is a key element of compassionate care. Oral health is an important part of general health and wellbeing, to communicate or speak, swallow and eat.”

Stephanie first piloted the Mouth Care Matters programme in June 2018 on two wards at Furness General Hospital as part of a Listening into Action (LiA) scheme, before rolling it out across all wards at the site.

LiA is a fundamental shift in the way we work and lead. Its aim is to engage with, and empower, all staff to make the changes that they think will improve not only the services we offer to patients but also, the experience our staff get working in our hospitals. Listening into Action has been developed by Optimise Limited and has been adopted by over 70 NHS trusts since 2010. UHMBT is a licenced LiA trust.

Stephanie’s LiA scheme saw her develop a mouth care policy, mouth care assessment for the nursing bundle and a staff intranet page with access to all resources and the Mouth Care Matters website.

Her future goals are to roll-out the Mouth Care Matters training with staff on the wards at Royal Lancaster Infirmary and Westmorland General Hospital, deliver ‘Mini Mouth Care Matters’ training with the Trust’s children’s wards and introduce the Mouth Care Matters training package as an e-Learning course for all current clinical and new clinical staff.

Stephanie added: “I did a survey with staff following their training and they all said they were more confident brushing a patient’s teeth, delivering dry mouth care, cleaning dentures, carrying out assessments and caring for patients with challenging behaviours.

“Mini Mouth Care Matters is something I’m also very passionate about delivering. At FGH last year we saw 240 teeth extracted from children due to poor oral health. I’m hoping that by delivering training to the children’s wards I can start to work closer with parents and children in the community to educate them on good oral health and the correct products to use, which would reduce the amount of teeth being extracted from children, save staff a lot of theatre time and the Trust money.”

You can find out more about Mouth Care Matters here http://www.mouthcarematters.hee.nhs.uk/

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