Patients need the support of an Admiral Nurse, says GP

Dr Louise Knight in her surgery. Photo by Terry Ife ref shs 1826-18-13TI To order your copy of this

Dr Louise Knight in her surgery. Photo by Terry Ife ref shs 1826-18-13TI To order your copy of this photograph go to and click on myphotos24 - Credit: Archant

Dr Louise Knight, a partner in the town’s GP practice responsible for older people’s mental health, is among those supporting the £100,000 appeal to bring an Admiral Nurse to the Sid Valley.

Here she speaks of how dementia is affecting our community – and how an Admiral Nurse could make a difference.

“The Sid Valley is an exceptional area of Devon, having one of the most elderly populations in the UK.

“The general practice serves a population of 14, 540 patients, 40 per cent of whom are over retirement age, with 15 per cent over 80 years of age.

“This brings many challenges to health and social care and one of the rapidly growing areas of need is the rise in patients developing all forms of dementia.

“As local and national awareness of dementia and its challenges increases, GPs are being asked to increase early diagnosis rates. In the Sid Valley, our diagnosis rate has risen from 26 per cent of estimated cases to 51 per cent in five years.

“This upward trend is continuing.

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“We now have more than 300 patients in the practice area with a diagnosis of dementia. It is estimated that there may be up to 700 patients with the diagnosis in Sidmouth.

“Many of our dementia patients are cared for at home by their families, who also have specialised needs and may be well into their retirement years, with medical problems of their own.

“Sadly, as diagnosis rates and need is increasing, services for these patients have been removed from the Sid Valley, despite the Government’s aim for care provision local to the patients and carers.

“Doctors are therefore in a position of increasingly delivering this frightening diagnosis to patients and their carers, with insufficient resources to support them through their illness in the community in which they live.”

The Role of an Admiral Nurse

“Admiral Nurses are specialist dementia nurses who give much-needed practical and emotional support to family carers, as well as the person living with dementia.

“Admiral Nurses are available to support families from the point of diagnosis, throughout the dementia journey, concentrating on their involvement during the transitions of care until the end of life. They join up the different parts of the health and social care system and enable the needs of family carers and people with dementia to be addressed in a co-ordinated way.

“In addition, Admiral Nurses provide consultancy and education to professionals from the full range of disciplines and working in any setting.

“Admiral Nurses work collaboratively with the family and the person with dementia to guide the pace and nature of the support and clinical intervention that is offered.

“The model is relationship-centred. The Admiral Nurse will assess the mental and physical wellbeing of both the family carer/s and the person with dementia.

“There are currently 132 Admiral Nurses in the UK.

“Developed and supported by a highly experienced team at the charity Dementia UK, these nurses work in a variety of settings and are registered nurses with extensive experience in dementia care.

“Most importantly, Admiral Nurses attune to the needs of the family – understanding their needs, building trust, counselling them and providing specialist clinical advice and interventions – it provides a ‘safety net’ that families need when things get tough. As one family carer in Kent put it: ‘She has quite simply changed my life. She is the best thing to happen to me in years. I feel supported, taken seriously and offered hope such that I can go on. I realise the road ahead is really hard, but with her help and support I can continue to care for my husband.’”

The Issues

Dr Knight said that the community dementia matron and Alzheimer support workers are tasked with caring for patients that are spread over a large geographical area and a local Admiral Nurse would be complementary to their care provision.

An admiral nurse would aim to support patients and carers at home where possible.

Dr Knight believes that this could lead to a significant reduction in hospital admissions and a reduction in bed blocking in both the RD&E and local hospital, as well as helping some patients to stay at home for longer, rather than entering residential care.