Almost all patients would recommend treatment by our dental students to friends and family
Almost all patients would recommend treatment by our dental students to friends and family

Dental students from Plymouth University have proven themselves to be a hit with NHS patients across the South West.

The patients have all attended Dental Education Facilities (DEFs) in Exeter, Plymouth and Truro, which are run by the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise and are where Plymouth University dental students treat NHS patients under the supervision of qualified dental professionals.

The result comes from the Friends and Family Test, which is a measure introduced by the NHS to monitor patients’ satisfaction in the hospitals and other clinical settings where they receive treatment.

In Exeter, Truro and Derriford 100 per cent of patients said they would recommend the DEFs to family and friends, with 96 per cent of patients in Devonport doing the same. The scores are from the Friends and Family Test data for the last available quarter (May to July 2015).

The news comes at a time when work is starting on a new DEF for NHS patients in and around Exeter. The current DEF is situated at Heavitree Hospital and opened in 2008. Since then first-year dental students have provided basic NHS dental treatments and assessments under the supervision of qualified dental care professionals and the DEF was limited to 17 dental chairs.

The new DEF is being developed in a refurbished building formerly home to health care researchers, at the Veysey Building on Salmon Pool Lane. The number of chairs will increase to 42 and local NHS patients will benefit from a wider range of treatments provided by third-year dental students and students from the University’s BSc in Dental Therapy and Hygiene course.

The new building will also be home to a comprehensive dental community engagement programme run by the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise Community Engagement Team, with a number of projects and initiatives designed to raise oral health awareness and improve access to dental care for targeted sectors of the community.

Enabling works start at the end of this month with the building open and ready for patients and students in September 2016.

The rationale behind the DEF programme is two-fold: to prepare the dentists of the future for the NHS by providing training in an environment which mirrors that of an NHS practice; and to raise awareness of good oral health and increase access to dental care for local communities.

The sort of treatments and services that will take place at the DEFs include:

  • dental check-ups, oral examination and diagnosis including x-rays
  • advice for preventing tooth decay and gum disease including tooth brushing and oral hygiene instruction, dietary advice and the application of sealants that protect the surfaces of teeth
  • assessment and treatment of gum disease
  • fillings and crowns
  • extractions 
  • dentures.
The Friends and Family Test is carried out by patients being asked a number of questions on a tablet – they are also invited to leave comments. People had great things to say about the DEFs, including: “My treatments have always been first class”; “I like it here”; and, “Found it very friendly, very caring and everyone explained what was happening – brilliant team.”

Dr Robert Witton, Director of the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise, said: 

“As a provider of NHS services we have to attain, and aim to surpass, the quality standards demanded of us by the NHS and our regulators. We are delighted by the results from the Friends and Family Test because they show that, from our patients’ point of view, we are providing them with a service with which they are happy and which they would recommend to those close to them.”
He added: 

“We are excited about our developments for Exeter and we look forward to bringing an extended dental service to the city, as well as our award-winning community engagement activities.”
There is more information about the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise DEFs, the treatments available and how to become a patient, at the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise website.