Students providing health care to Portsmouth’s vulnerable community

Students from the University of Portsmouth are leading health clinics to help vulnerable and homeless people in Portsmouth.

Two students in purple t-shirts giving a mouth dental exanimation to man sta in chair, whose head is visible from behind.

KCL dental students Yash Patel (left) and Roshni Sanikop provide a dental check up for service users.

Working in partnership with Portsmouth City Council, the students provide general health and dentistry checks to a diverse and hard-to-reach patient group.

The inter-departmental collaboration with undergraduate students from the University’s Dental Academy and its School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences benefits the local community while providing students with real-world learning opportunities.

Following a pilot scheme last year, the students will go out into the community and visit homeless shelters. There, they will provide the health check, based on the NHS health check which is the standard health risk assessment looking at a range of factors affecting health such as age, gender, physical activity, family history and alcohol use.

The oral health check will then look at the health of the user’s teeth and gums and risk of dental disease.

Students will also provide lifestyle advice and referrals for follow-up appointments and treatment. Those who need dental treatment and have no access to a dentist are welcomed to attend as patients at the Dental Academy, where they are provided with free dental care.

Feedback from the service users included:

“I want to be told, told what to do, it makes me do it more. I am at a point when I want to be healthier and I need to be told.”

“I walk everywhere, I get fresh air and keep healthy. I could talk about how to do that and feel that I want to do that.”

“I am happy to help with learning, they [students] help us and we [service users] help them.”

Dr Nicola Barnes, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice, at the University of Portsmouth, said: “General and oral health are key indicators of well-being. Many homeless people visit pharmacies daily but they are not registered with a GP or a dentist. These student-led health checks have shown to be welcomed by hard-to-reach patients and to facilitate access to the services and treatment that they need.”

Cllr Matthew Winnington, Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing & Social Care at Portsmouth City Council, said: “I’m incredibly pleased to be working with the University of Portsmouth on this initiative. For those without a permanent roof over their head, or without a stable home environment, looking after their health can naturally not be a key priority but their circumstances often mean they’re at an increased risk of suffering poor physical and dental health. By taking this service to them and providing advice and referrals for follow up treatment, I think it will make a real difference for some of our most vulnerable residents.”

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