Positive steps forward for Sidmouth dementia care

Working party aims to “raise the bar” regarding care standards for Sid Valley dementia sufferers and their carers

POSITIVE steps are being made by a working party investigating mental health services for older people living in the Sidmouth area.

Chaired by Mark Williams, the group aims to “raise the bar” regarding standards of care for both patients and their carers.

Set up six months ago after a public meeting at which Iain Tulley, chief executive of Devon Partnership NHS Trust, spoke about the challenges posed by dementia, the group has had a positive change of mind as the different parties that form it have worked on an integrated approach to the diagnosis and care of people with dementia and their carers in the community.

“We know that many aspects of the care that has been provided for older people with mental health needs in Sidmouth has been good and we want to acknowledge this,” said Mr Williams.

“However, we are now dealing with the crux of the issues now, which drove the formation of the group, over available, short break facilities.

“At the heart of this is earlier diagnosis of dementia, better education, training and signposting for carers and the provision of respite and short breaks for carers.

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“The notion of care in the community has been with us for many years now, but the question we are looking at is how we provide appropriate care in the community and carer breaks that meet people’s needs.”

“The availability of short break provision in the Sid Valley looks to me to be the key question.

“The big issue for Sidmouth is do we have sufficient short break capacity to meet the needs? People are telling us that this is one of the most important parts of the whole package and we are working with both health and social care to understand the issues.”

He said the group was also looking at how GP practices would support early diagnosis.

The working group is conducting a survey of local care homes and their capacity to take dementia sufferers for short breaks. Some do not have a policy to take people with dementia, or have waiting lists.

Last month, a new memory clinic opened at Stowford Lodge. This is currently taking place once a week and early feedback has been excellent.

Led by senior mental health practitioner Andrew Moore-Jones and supported by a consultant psychiatrist and a psychologist, the memory clinic provides a thorough assessment of people’s needs and plays a vital role in the early diagnosis of dementia, enabling the earliest possible intervention and support. In addition, a new education and training group for carers has also been established at Stowford Lodge and this, like the memory clinic, is providing a new service for much of East Devon.

Mr Williams said: “This is a major step forward, a co-ordinated approach to diagnosis and then identifying pathways for carers and the cared for.

“The working group’s aims are to see standards of care rise in the community, learning from those examples of good practice that can be found both nationally and locally.

“We are making some real headway with mapping-out what we have currently and what we need in the future.

Throughout all of our discussions, however, we are having to be realistic about the current financial climate and the challenges being faced by health and social care providers everywhere. It’s no good to anyone if we end up with a wish-list which is completely unrealistic in terms of affordability.”

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