Letters asking parents to ‘play dentist’ clarified

A north London health authority – slammed for telling parents to check their kids’ teeth – has reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining dental screening in the area.

The joint Enfield and Haringey Primary Care Trust’s dental service sent out letters to parents via schools suggesting they ‘play dentist ‘while school dental checks were under review.


But, after complaints from parents, the PCT has reaffirmed that ‘proposed changes in the arrangements for obtaining parental consent will not reduce the level of the service’ and dismissed it as a ‘misunderstanding’.


NHS Enfield has provided a programme of school dental screenings since 1989.


The introduction of new government guidelines in January 2007 did, however, give the opportunity to review the system in a move aimed at boosting oral healthcare for children who need it most.


The current review follows guidance, received from the Department of Health, that positive consent is needed for school dental screening – and from the UK National Screening Committee that alternatives to screening should also be explored as a way of reducing health inequalities.


NHS Enfield’s clinical director of Community Dental Services, Dr Steve Simmons, said: ‘We are determined to ensure Enfield children gain access to a dental health assessment and would therefore like parents to give consent when the children first enter school.


‘We could then notify parents before each screening to confirm their agreement to go ahead. Parents would then be notified of the results.’


The community Dental Service will shortly be writing out again to Enfield head-teachers to clarify any misunderstandings that may have arisen about the future arrangements for obtaining parental consent for the screening programme.


• NHS Enfield is also currently investigating new proposals for a fluoride varnish programme in key areas, in keeping with the Department’s policy on Delivering Better Oral Health.

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