Staff at Prince Charles Hospital are putting our motto ‘ Cwm Taf Cares’ firmly into practice after making positive changes to the way they work with adult patients with learning disabilities who need to have dental surgery under general anaesthetic.

A surgical procedure for anyone can cause anxiety and stress, but for someone who has learning disabilities or are seriously disabled, being in an unfamiliar place with strangers around them can be a traumatic experience for both them and their carer.

After witnessing the anxiety that patients, families and their carers go through, the multidisciplinary team at Prince Charles Hospital decided to change the process in which they work to benefit these patients.

Cheryl Davies, senior nurse manager for theatres, said:  “Our intention as a team is to focus on the best possible outcome for adult patients with learning disabilities who require dental care under general anaesthetic.

“As an experienced team, we felt that we could change the process for dental day surgery for vulnerable patients, such as those with learning disabilities or those that are severely disabled.

“Instead of these patients coming into hospital on the day and undergoing their dental care as they would have before, which generally caused a lot distress, the community dental surgeon now visits the patient at their home or care home.  This way they can assess the patient in their home where they are comfortable, and meet their carer to gain an understanding of the person’s needs.

“Following the visit, the team treating the patient on the day of surgery will hold a multidisciplinary meeting where they will discuss the patient’s medical history and best care for the patient.”

Before the day of the surgery the patient will be invited to ‘tour’ the unit and meet the staff that will care for them, this helps put them at ease. This may take more than one visit to help desensitise them.

Cheryl said: “As a team we aim to prevent anxiety in both patients and their carers.  To achieve this staff are encouraged to take up training on ‘challenging behaviour’ and legal and ethical aspects surrounding patients with learning disabilities.

“The change in working practice has been extremely successful with patients experiencing much less anxiety and being discharged quicker as well as lower cancellation rates.”

Dental surgery made easier for patients with learning disabilities