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New role helps spread the word of good mouthcare benefits

Image shows a woman holding a toothbrush and a set of dentures

A first-for-Wales role promoting the importance of oral hygiene in hospital could lead to earlier discharges and provide comfort for patients.

Swansea Bay University Health Board has appointed an oral health coordinator for hospitals to educate and train staff about the importance of mouthcare and its links to general health and conditions.

Sarah Francis, a dental nurse with 34 years’ experience, has taken on the new position having been a key figure in delivering educational programmes in the area.

Image show a woman standing in front of a hospital Her appointment within the Community Dental Service aims to reduce the time patients spend in hospital, along with improving their oral hygiene and mouth care while they are there.

Sarah will also train staff working with patients at the end of life along with stroke, elderly and frail patients. The role also includes educating people receiving radiotherapy for head and neck cancer.

PICTURED: Sarah Francis has started a new role as oral health coordinator for hospitals.

Sarah said: “Good oral health has an impact on a patient’s communication and dignity, ensuring they are able to eat and drink. A clean, comfortable mouth is so important for them.

“Good daily mouthcare can reduce chest infections and hospital-acquired pneumonia, while it can ensure they can eat well and communicate with staff. All of this can lead to earlier discharge, which benefits everyone.

“It is not uncommon when a patient is unwell for oral hygiene to slip down the list of priorities. Part of my responsibility in this new role is to change that by educating staff and encouraging patients to look after their mouth to prevent complications and infections.”

She added: “I am supporting the education of hospital staff to ensure that mouthcare is a priority when taking care of patients.

“Lost dentures are always a concern in hospitals as this affects a patient’s dignity, confidence communication and nutrition.

“This role will enable me to build on the Daisy Denture project I started last year which provided training to ward staff to ensure they’re aware of the impact a lost denture can have on a patient.

Image shows a woman holding a toothbrush and a set of dentures “I’m only just starting the role, but I am already working with patients who have head and neck cancer surgery and are in the early stage of radiotherapy.

“Between weeks two to four, their mouth can get uncomfortable but ensuring they have good oral health can hopefully limit the side effects of radiotherapy.

PICTURED: Sarah is promoting the importance of maintaining good oral health.

“I will also provide training for end-of-life mouth care. If you are caring for someone who is passing away you want them to have a clean, comfortable mouth as the family will want to give them a kiss and cuddle. 

“You don’t want their last memory of that person to be tainted by a dry painful mouth or an inability to speak because of that.”

Sarah is facilitating the change on education across the health board by delivering mouth care champion training sessions.

She is currently working across four hospitals – Morriston, Singleton, Neath Port Talbot and Gorseinon.

Sarah added: “I am working with two wards each at Singleton and Neath Port Talbot, six wards in Morriston and the whole of unit at Gorseinon, which has 30 beds.

“I want to train our champions and ensure they are supported. They also have documentation available on health care systems which has further information to support them.”

New mouth care champion training sessions started in Neath Port Talbot Hospital this month, providing comprehensive training including dry mouth, denture care, documentation and care resistant behaviour.

Speakers from head and neck, speech therapy and dietitians are attending the sessions to help demonstrate the impact poor mouthcare can have on their group of patients.

“It’s something that is becoming very popular with staff because they’re more aware of the importance of good oral health in patients,” Sarah said.

Karen Griffin, lead programme manager, said: “Sarah is a very motivated individual whose enthusiasm and passion is reflected through her work in this new role.

“Developing mouthcare in hospital settings has always been a priority with training being supported on an ad hoc basis, aligning with our work within the community and Swansea University.

“Having Sarah in this role will allow the programme to develop to its full potential, which can only be in the best interests of patients and hospital staff.”

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