CDS marks a year of providing dentistry to rough sleepers at Derby’s Safe Space

For a year, Community Dental Services CIC has been running a drop-in dental clinic at Safe Space: an emergency housing provider in Derby, for those who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets. They provide rough sleepers with a ‘safe space’ to get help, support and temporary overnight accommodation.

CDS’s Heidi, Specialist in Special Care Dentistry for Derbyshire is one of the dentists working in the clinic.

“CDS is a social enterprise with a clear vision: ‘Together, we will eradicate preventable oral disease, striving for health equality in our communities.’ This is so fitting with the work we do at Safe Space, and I feel proud that, thanks to colleague Maeve (Specialist in Special Care Dentistry) setting the ball rolling, we can provide this busy clinic.

We love providing the Safe Space clinics because we are able to reach a community who otherwise would struggle to access a dentist. Their social and medical factors compound the difficulties faced by the general population with finding a dentist. We feel we can really make a difference sorting somebody’s pain or restoring their smile. These patients have so many issues in their lives; having a dentist available on a drop-in basis means we can help to make one of their issues easier for them, and this is very rewarding.

We are able to perform dental examinations, extractions, simple fillings and dentures as well as providing oral health advice. Our drop-in clinic is available to the homeless community and substance misuse patients, so a lot of our work we do involves taking out teeth and making dentures. Some of our patients have been in so much pain and we are able to free them of that and provide them with false teeth, often for those who haven’t had any teeth for a long time. I find these cases the most gratifying.”

Ruth, Safe Space Manager for Derby City Mission explains why Safe Space is so important: “Within the wider homeless community, Safe Space is seen as a place of refuge and a place to come when you are in trouble. We have often had people turn up needing help or reassurance over a hot drink.  We provide services that our clientele may find difficult to access or are too afraid to go to. We have a dedicated homeless paramedic prescriber, a councillor, chiropodist and our staff provide help with accessing benefits and telephone interviews. We also provide a place of safety where guests can relax, have some food, talk, perhaps even do some cooking, all with the aim of helping their mental health and getting them back into normal working society. We work with other projects within Derby City Mission: The Jubilee Debt Clinic, By My Side (helping people to get off an addiction) and Mt Place (helping to keep them in accommodation when they are difficult to house).”

Initially running fortnightly, CDS now offers a weekly clinic every Thursday morning, seeing on average six to eight patients per session. Providing our own kit, CDS is also able to book patients into a regular CDS clinic if more complex dental work is required. Heidi explains how CDS’s involvement has helped drive CDS’s involvement with other initiatives:

“During the height of the COVID pandemic, there was a residential scheme at Mount Cook (North Derbyshire) for the homeless population. We were approached to offer the residents dental care whilst they were in this placement, which Maeve (Specialist in Special Care Dentistry, North Derbyshire) did on a domiciliary basis. Whilst there, we worked alongside the Derby Homeless Paramedic who also worked at Safe Space and introduced us to the initiative. This has served as a springboard for CDS to set up a similar service to Safe Space at the Pathways Project in Chesterfield. We also hope to expand to other areas in the county.”

CDS Employees providing the Safe Space clinic include:

Heidi Nuttall, Specialist in Special Care Dentistry

Maeve McLernon, Specialist in Special Care Dentistry

Heather Mitchell, Dental Officer, Speciality Registrar

Toni Edwards, Dental Nurse

Clare Forman, Dental Nurse

Amy Sillitto, Senior Dental Nurse/Clinical Governance Lead for Derbyshire

Helen Beckett, Dental Nurse

Lisa Mulligan, Dental Nurse.


Launched in March 2019 by Derby City Mission, Safe Space is a service that provides rough sleepers with a “safe space” to get help and support in the day and to be temporarily accommodated overnight. Derby City Mission work in partnership with the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office (OPPC), Public Health England, Derby Homes and East Midlands Ambulance Service to deliver this project.

Safe Space provides daytime accommodation for up to 12 guests at a time, and overnight this number is reduced to 8. Guests can access a shower if they require it, wash their clothes, have their health needs tended to by an on-site paramedic, have some basic food and drink, get warm, keep dry, engage in conversation, be listened to, or even watch the TV.