Referral Care Pathway

If any dentist finds anything suspicious they should always refer the patient. For further assistance on referral, please see the following documents.

How the whole team should be involved in screening

Outlined below are some suggested roles and responsibilities for all members of a dental practice team should adopt when it comes to screening patients for head and neck cancers.

Dentists are responsible for:

Adopting a management strategy within their dental practice for the early detection and prevention of mouth cancer.
Ensuring that their management strategy is conducive with medico-legal advice from defence organisations and the BDA.
Ensuring that they and their team are trained to deliver the management strategy for mouth cancer and that individuals understand their roles and responsibilities within it. Principal dentists remain responsible for their team’s actions and advice that they give.
Establishing and confirming robust referral pathways with specialist departments to allow for timely referrals.
Understanding NICE Guidelines for the referral of mouth cancer cases to a specialist unit.
Deciding whether to use an adjunctive screening tool and if so ensuring that each associate dentist in the practice is trained in its use and application.
Adopting a common approach amongst the dentists in the practice to deliver a systematic routine screening, document findings in a custom made format (on paper or electronically) and organise the rest of the dental team to support the system.
Setting up an audit system to monitor annual screening, referral and outcome figures.
Having a training policy for staff that is conducive with the GDC’s recommendation for the management of mouth cancer as a CPD topic.
Communicating the practice’s approach to other dental practices and health professionals.

Dentists, Hygienists and Therapists are responsible for:

Reviewing social and medical history forms to take note of lifestyles choices and advise the patient accordingly.
Recording the condition of the soft tissues of the mouth and any advice given.
Monitoring the oral mucosa for any signs of abnormality and refer back to the dentist if necessary.
Being knowledgeable of the specific care needs in general practice of a mouth cancer patient.
Being able to communicate sensitively with a patient should an abnormality be detected.

Nurses are responsible for:

Taking accurate charting notes of the dentist’s examination during a mouth cancer screening according to the customised format.
Confirming in the patient’s notes that both an intra and extra-oral examination have taken place.
Assisting with adjunctive screening methods if they are used in the practice and be able to answer patients’ questions about screening competently.
Supporting patients emotionally during a mouth cancer screening and if any abnormality is detected.

The Reception Team is responsible for:

Answering patients’ questions about mouth cancer screening over the telephone and in reception.
Being knowledgeable about the content of advice leaflets and keeping the waiting areas stocked with educational materials.
Acting appropriately on a phone call or walk-in patient who may be reporting ‘mouth cancer’ symptoms and requires a dentist’s attention.

Practice Managers are responsible for:

Ensuring that training policies for oral cancer management are adhered to and updated as specified by GDC recommendations.
Knowing how to access support services such as smoking and alcohol cessation counsellors.
Maintaining stocks of educational material and advice leaflets for patient waiting areas.
Running regular audits of the accuracy and effectiveness of systems within the oral cancer management strategy.
Ensuring that new team members receive an induction in the processes involved in the practice’s oral cancer management strategy.

Educational Resources

Download a variety of free leaflets, posters and educational resources.

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