University awarded £2m grant for dental services research

Researchers from the University have received a grant from the National Institute for Health Research worth in excess of £2.3m to develop and test an intervention for users of urgent dental services.

Currently in the UK urgent dental problems place an unnecessary burden on hospital Accident & Emergency departments with as many as 0.7% of A&E visits are because of dental problems. Also, approximately one third of these patients have previously attended the same hospital or centre for an appointment, with 13% visiting for the same problem.

While the availability of NHS dental services varies across the country, in Cheshire and Merseyside NHS dental practice care is readily available. However, many people still use urgent care services for dental problems – over 11,000 people use out-of-hours urgent dental care services per year.

Involving local people

Researchers from the University’s Department of Health Services Research, led by Professor Rebecca Harris, will be developing an intervention that aims to tackle this problem and address the barriers that prevent people using NHS dental services more regularly.

As part of their research the team will be setting up a Merseyside community advisory group so that they can work with them to develop materials which are relevant and useful.

The community advisory group will involve people who:

• only go to the dentist when they have toothache
• find it a struggle claiming back money for NHS dental charges
• are afraid of going to the dentist
• are put off going regularly for other reasons

The research team will also be employing a lay person who is active in their local community, to work alongside researchers.

Inequalities ‘unacceptable’

Rebecca Harris, Professor of Dental Public Health and Head Department of Health Services Research, said: “There has been so much research over the years which simply describes this problem. This is a real opportunity to actually develop and test out something to help people.

“Inequalities in the use of dental services is one of those perennial problems we live with, but which really should be unacceptable. It is shocking that people regularly end up in hospital beds because of dental abscesses which have been left untreated, in an area like Liverpool where there are plenty of NHS dentists.

“One of the things I’m most looking forward to is working in partnership with lay people to develop something people like them will find useful.”

The project title is ‘Interventions to reduce inequalities in the uptake of routine dental care’ (RETURN). The research is due to start in August 2018 and will run for 69 months.

If you would like further information or would like to be involved as a member of the public please contact Professor Harris on or call 0151 795 5334.

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