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NHS introduces dementia advisers to improve support for patients and families

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b2822 (Published 13 July 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b2822
  1. Susan Mayor
  1. 1London

    Dementia advisers have been introduced in 22 areas of England to provide patients and their families with more support through the course of the illness, with a further 18 sites testing other types of support networks, the Department of Health announced this week.

    Announcing the launch of the programme, Phil Hope, the care services minister, said, “This is the beginning of real change to transform the lives of people with dementia. We know that people with dementia and their families are under huge strain. Dementia advisers will be there for them when they need help, from diagnosis onwards.”

    The introduction of dementia advisers is one of the measures set out in the national dementia strategy, which was published in February this year with the aim of improving the quality of dementia care. This sets out a five year strategic framework to enable local services to improve the quality of dementia services and tackle inequalities relating to dementia.

    The appointment of dementia advisers aims to help meet one of the key objectives of the strategy, enabling easy access to care, support, and advice after a diagnosis of dementia. This is a new role, which may be taken on by people currently working in the voluntary sector, so is initially being piloted in the 22 sites where dementia advisers have been appointed.

    After evaluating the pilots, the strategy plans that local health and social care services will appoint dementia advisers “to provide a point of contact for all those with dementia and their carers, who can provide information and advice about dementia, and on an ongoing basis help to signpost them to additional help and support.”

    The concept of dementia advisers arose from findings of research with patients, their families, and care providers carried out during the development of the dementia strategy. One of the clearest messages from people with dementia and their carers was the desire for there to be someone whom they could approach for help and advice at any stage of the illness.

    Currently available health and social care services generally discharge patients once they are stable and receiving a package of care. The consultation reported, “This was almost always perceived negatively by people with dementia and their carers, who, faced with a serious illness where there is inevitable long term decline and increase in dependency, want to feel there is continuing support available to them when they need it.”

    Research showed that this support needed to be provided without removing health and social care professionals from frontline care and needed to be complementary to other elements of care currently provided. To meet this need, dementia advisers are now being appointed.

    Other types of support networks are also being piloted, including dementia cafes, which are places where people with dementia and their carers can meet up, and a simple social networking site that will allow people with dementia to network with others. Several of these projects will focus on working with minority groups that can be harder to reach, including people with learning difficulties, black and minority ethnic groups, and people who do not speak English. In addition, a new dementia information portal (www.dementia.dh.gov) will be introduced from 22 July.

    Notes

    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b2822

    Footnotes

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