Dementia champions start work


One hundred Dementia Champions have started work across Scotland to help drive up standards of care for people with dementia.

The first wave of champions, including existing nurses, Allied Health Professionals and some clinical managers, have been trained by the University of the West of Scotland and Alzheimer Scotland, and are working in hospitals across Scotland.

Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Specialist Nurses are also being appointed in every health board across the country.

And Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has made a personal commitment for 2013 to introduce a new national post-diagnostic support target to ensure people with dementia receive the help they need following diagnosis.

The commitment builds on Scotland’s impressive performance in improving diagnosis as highlighted in a recent Alzheimer Society report into diagnosis rates across the UK, which shows that Scotland is performing better than England and Wales.

The guarantee is the first of its kind in the world, and will ensure that all people newly diagnosed with dementia receive at least a year of person-centred post-diagnostic support, provided by a named person.

Visiting the Mansionhouse Unit in Glasgow on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon met with senior charge nurse Lee O’Connor who is one of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s 13 Dementia Champions, and Agnes Houston, Chair of the Scottish Dementia Working Group, who has first-hand experience of how Scottish hospitals can make people with dementia feel welcome and understood.

Ms Sturgeon said:

“Providing the very best care for every older person on every occasion, in care homes and in hospitals continues to be a personal priority for me.

“Our new Dementia Champions and Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Specialist Nurses are starting work in health boards across Scotland, and these key changes show just how much we prioritise older people’s care within Government and will mean that the dementia care provided by both NHS and social care staff will meet the highest possible standards.

“It is estimated that up to 82,000 people in Scotland have dementia and we expect that number to double over the next 25 years. The NHS and local authorities have to be well equipped to understand the care which people with dementia and their families are entitled to, in order to ensure that their dignity, independence and wishes are met.

“It is also vital that we focus on post-diagnostic support and that is why I have introduced this new national commitment. Getting the right support in place at this stage of the illness can greatly help improve the quality of care throughout the journey of the illness.

“I know that Alzheimer Scotland share my conviction and my determination to deliver this commitment.”

Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland, Henry Simmons, said:

“Scotland has had tremendous success in facing one of the key challenges of dementia: encouraging people to come forward and making sure that they receive a prompt diagnosis. Recent statistics show that we are leading the way in this regard compared to our counterparts in England and Wales.

The new national commitment to a guarantee of one year’s post-diagnostic support (based on the ‘Five Pillar’ model, developed by Alzheimer Scotland) for everyone receiving a diagnosis of dementia, as well as their partners and families, is a perfect way to build on this.

“We also welcome the new Dementia Champions, who are a vital component in delivering meaningful change to people with dementia and their families. We are greatly impressed by their commitment and enthusiasm. They will complement the work done by our Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Nurse Specialists across Scotland.”

Senior Charge Nurse Lee O’Connor said:

“I was delighted to be nominated as one of the first Dementia Champions in Glasgow and feel more able now to influence others in supporting people with dementia when they are in hospital.”

Agnes Houston was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago. She knows how important it is that healthcare staff understand how to care for people with dementia.

She said: “I am a nurse by profession so I do have a strong personal interest in the Dementia Champions programme, and I see it as something that can really make a difference.

“A well trained work force has long been one of the Scottish Dementia Working Group’s main priorities, and many of us have stories about our stays in acute hospital settings – what has gone well and what has not gone so well.

“I believe the Dementia Champions will be able to make a difference and bring best practice to their place of work. Yes it will take time and patience but it will be worth it in the end.”

Malcolm Wright, Chief Executive of NHS Education for Scotland (NES), which commissioned the Dementia Champions programme, said: “Dementia Champions will have a key role ensuring that there are real improvements in frontline dementia care, sustaining that change in their area of work and cascading information and education about dementia to other staff.

“The Dementia Champions programme is part of an extensive range of education and development activities that we are taking forward with the Scottish Social Services Council to ensure that both health and social care staff have the training they need to ensure quality care for people with dementia, their families and carers.”

Four test sites across the county are piloting the post-diagnostic commitment, with a view to establishing it across the country in 2013.

Improving post-diagnostic support is one of two key improvement areas highlighted in Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy.  In total, 300 Dementia Champions will be working across the NHS and local authorities by 2013.

The programme, funded by the Scottish Government, recruited champions from acute general hospital and social care settings and will help ensure the needs of patients with dementia are met; and will also lead and support change in care.

The first 100 champions graduated in March this year. The next 200, who will include staff from the social care sector, will begin their training next month.

Joint funding has also been provided by Alzheimer Scotland and the Scottish Government for the Specialist Nurse initiative.

Some health boards have already appointed a Specialist Nurse, while other boards are in the process of recruiting for the post.