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How to tackle the dementia challenge


 20 August 2013

PA Consulting Group announces a summary of discussions on the future of dementia care following its health and social care event with senior executives

 With the number of people diagnosed in the UK with dementia expected to double over the next 40 years and the cost of the disease currently standing at £23billion, dementia is perhaps the most taxing health and social care issue. PA Consulting Group asked senior executives from clinical commissioning groups, NHS England, NHS Shared Business Services, local authorities and the voluntary sector if integration is really the solution and if it is, how it can be made a reality.

 According to the group, there are six key steps to managing dementia care: 

1. Making better use of technology to help people remain independent

Older people may be increasingly tech-savvy - the biggest market for smart phones and tablets is the over 65s - but many can still find technology confusing and difficult to engage with. By making use of simple devices, telecare can ensure people are taking the correct medication as well as providing a much needed safety net; if people suffering from dementia wander from home they can be tracked and returned safely using geo-fencing technology. This is highly effective and low cost, especially when compared with the cost of institutional care – which may be the only viable alternative for some.

2. Challenging the status quo by incorporating all sectors

Attendees agreed that they should do more to draw on insights and experiences from organisations outside their ‘normal’ network. Providers of dementia beds and voluntary organisations might have radically different perspectives to NHS commissioners and community providers and this can be used to challenge the status quo and develop more innovative solutions.

3. Reconnecting with patients

Understanding the needs of people with dementia must be a core objective of all health and social care workers. This means reconnecting with people in the local area to gain a better picture of where the gaps in service lie. This may be simple requirements such as making sure services are well ‘sign-posted’ and can be accessed in a number of different ways, and not just online.

4. Local communities playing a greater role

 It is crucial to invest in educating people in local communities who are not directly affected by dementia, as they can play a vital role in the early diagnosis process – one local authority is working with local businesses to spot and support people with early signs of dementia.

5. Taking a whole person approach

The introduction of a ‘Personalised Health Budget’ is a step in the right direction - but commissioners must now extend this to voluntary services. For example, supporting reading groups where volunteers read books to those with poor eyesight can provide an opportunity to identify the first signs of dementia as bouts of forgetfulness can be easily observed in attendees.

6. The offer has to be bigger

Commissioners and providers need to offer more to those living with dementia. Connecting people back to the community after a stay in hospital is an example of the services that should be provided.

Mark Horncastle, expert in social care at PA Consulting Group, commented: “The integration of health and social care provides a great opportunity to create a structured, coordinated and strategic approach to improve the quality of life for people with dementia.

“We also need to guard against an urge to turn down technology on behalf of older people and embrace the opportunity to improve services to those who might be isolated and at risk. If we don’t change our approach to dementia now, the disease will become an unmanageable cost for the NHS.” 

Attendee Trish Anderson, Chief Officer at NHS Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group, commented: “It was great to have the opportunity to meet colleagues involved in different aspects of health and social care and have an open conversation on what is needed to improve the lives of those with dementia.  It became clear very quickly that working together and sharing ideas is the right way forward and we should continue to build on local relationships to deliver the best possible dementia care.”

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