Working Together To Improve Dementia Care – South West Leads The Way

The South West is taking the lead nationally in driving forward improvements in dementia diagnosis and care, as the region aims to deliver the requirements of the National Dementia Strategy ahead of the national, five-year timetable.

NHS staff across the region are pioneering new skills so that in all settings they can better meet the needs of people who have dementia, for example:

  • Ambulance staff are being trained to recognise signs of dementia and communicate well with those affected in emergency situations
  • Working with GPs so that more people have their dementia diagnosed and at an earlier stage so that they get the right support
  • Hospitals across the region have a senior member of staff responsible for ensuring that people’s dementia needs are met while they may be receiving treatment for other conditions.

Liz Redfern, Director of Patient Care and Nursing at the South West Strategic Health Authority, said:

“There are lots of agencies involved in dementia care and this in itself can be confusing for people. We need to work together so that people can get the information and services they need at the right time, in the right place, and ensure that every penny spent on dementia care makes a real difference.

We recognise that we face an enormous challenge but we want to reassure people that dementia remains a top clinical and financial priority in the South West. Commissioners are making significant strides in ensuring robust and effective strategies are in place to make real change and improvement. It’s not a ‘quick fix’ but a commitment to a major programme of work over years.”

In November 2008 the South West Strategic Health Authority hosted the region’s first-ever Dementia Summit, bringing together leading national experts and local people living with dementia, including families and carers, to help shape the future of care.

This led to the formation of a unique Dementia Partnership Group, made up of representatives from health, social care, the Alzheimer’s Society and carer representatives, to take forward a vision for better, more integrated services tailored to individual need and delivered when and where people need them, in line with the national strategy.

The South West already has the largest proportion of older people in the country, and the longest life expectancy. Latest figures show that 76,000 people in the region are living with dementia and this is likely to increase by 50 per cent over the next 15 years.

A detailed review was carried out last year to assess the quality of dementia services across the region, highlighting areas of excellence as well as identifying where improvements are necessary.

Local councils and Primary Care Trusts throughout the South West are now working closely together and each community has a plan to develop improved services for people with dementia and their carers.

People have highlighted the importance of getting good information, support from their GP and access to an early diagnosis.

As a result of this review, the Partnership has committed to:

  • Join up services across health and social care so that people receive more co-ordinated support;
  • Achieve better consistency of services across the region, so that people in all areas have equal access to high quality care and support;
  • Learn from areas of best practice already taking place. There are many success stories in the South West and examples of excellent care and support which can be shared and copied more widely.

Note to Editors:

Dementia Awareness Week runs from 4-11 July in England and Wales

For local cases studies or interviewees, please contact Gillian Humphrey, Media Relations Manager, NHS South West, on 01823 361365, or your local Primary Care Trust communications team.

For more information from the Alzheimer’s Society, see