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Dental academic receives national recognition for work to help homeless

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A champion of community dentistry has been recognised by a national body for his work helping people experiencing homelessness.

Robert Witton, Director of Community-based Dentistry at the University of Plymouth, and Chief Executive of Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE), has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health.

The award was made virtually at the Faculty’s annual conference on 8 March, and recognises the success of Rob’s community engagement work as well as the free PDSE clinic for people who experience homelessness.

PDSE is committed to improving oral health across the South West, and runs Dental Education Facilities in Plymouth, Exeter and Truro. Within these facilities, University of Plymouth student dental practitioners treat NHS patients under the guidance of a fully-qualified dentist.

As part of PDSE’s commitment to provide access to care for those groups who may feel excluded from mainstream dentistry, Rob and the team started a clinic for people experiencing homelessness in January 2018 for half a day per week. Dozens of people were treated by a fully qualified dentist, and such was the initiative’s success that the clinic increased to two full days per week in within six months.

The clinic has recently restarted after the COVID-19 pandemic put it on hold, with only emergency care provided.

Now Dr Witton remains committed to providing dental care to those who need it most.

He said:

“It’s great to have been recognised by the Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health in this way, and it highlights the amazing work of the team that delivers the clinic. We are delighted to be able to resume the clinic now it is safe to do so. In addition, PDSE continues to work alongside University of Plymouth students to help them deliver oral health interventions to local organisations and people who might traditionally face barriers in accessing oral health care. This is embedded into the curriculum and something that we are all very proud of.”

The Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health is part of the UK’s leading homeless healthcare charity, Pathway, acting as its membership organisation for people involved in health care for excluded groups.

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