The announcement comes at a time when many families are struggling to access support amidst a rising diagnostic backlog
Dementia UK has announced investment in dementia specialist Admiral Nurse posts to support primary care professionals, such as GPs, in their understanding around dementia and provide ongoing support to families following a diagnosis.
When things get challenging or difficult for people with dementia and their families, Admiral Nurses work alongside them; giving compassionate one-to-one support, expert guidance and practical solutions which can be hard to find elsewhere. Admiral Nurses work in a range of care settings including out in the community – 22 Admiral Nurses are working in primary care settings already.
The areas that have so far been identified to support these potential roles are Somerset, Dorset, Northumberland, Cumbria, Leeds, London, Shropshire, Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Sussex, and Leicestershire; further roles are planned for other parts of the UK.
With £1 million being allocated for the roles overall, this is the biggest investment Dementia UK has made within primary care.
The announcement follows Dementia UK’s Facing it Alone report, which highlights the pressures faced by GPs in providing dementia care and support. Even before the demands of the pandemic, 82% of GP respondents said that time and capacity pressures were an issue for them. Meanwhile 71% of carers in the report said that home visits from care and support staff had been cancelled, therefore putting further strain on GPs due to the increased need.
Mary – Jo, who works at the West Devon Admiral Nurse service said: “My role within the West Devon Admiral Nurse service has meant that I have built up strong relationships with GPs and other healthcare professionals in primary care. GPs can often be the first point of contact for families when they have issues around memory loss and are concerned about dementia in themselves or a loved one.
“As an Admiral Nurse working with GPs, I know that some families can feel a sense of stigma and challenges around access to GP surgeries; this is when families need that extra layer of support through Admiral Nurse home visits, for instance. Following these home visits, time pressures on GPs can decrease and families feel more confident.”
The development of Admiral Nursing roles within primary care has featured long into the history of Dementia UK , bringing good quality dementia care closer to the people who need it. Mary-Jo works in the community team of Livewell, a provider of integrated health and social care services, with the majority of her referrals coming from GPs. One of the most common reasons for referral to the West Devon Admiral Nurse service is where family carers are facing significant distress due to behaviour changes in a family member with dementia.
A GP from the West Devon GP Practice says: ““Since having an Admiral Nurse at the Practice dementia care has improved substantially. People have a point of contact to help deal with difficult situations, and begin to feel the unmanageable can be managed. The benefits do not stop there, I have noticed a change in my workload: fewer appointments and home visits for patients with dementia. I used to wait for that crisis call on a Friday afternoon from a patient with dementia, not any more!”
Paul Edwards, Director of Clinical Services at Dementia UK said: “These new roles within primary care in the UK come at a time when people with dementia have never needed more support. From recent research, we know how stretched GPs are providing critical care to some of the most vulnerable people in society; we also know how families can be overwhelmed at the sheer amount of information they can be given at diagnosis, with limited time to talk these issues through.
“That’s why having more dementia specialist nurses working at the heart of primary care is essential, to distil that sheer wealth of information to families and to support GPs in their understanding of a condition as complex as it is life-limiting.”
The new Admiral Nurse roles based within primary care will be established over the next year. The role operating in Leicestershire will be focussed on improving access to primary care for diverse communities, who continue to under-access dementia care services due to lack of tailored support.
For further information on the pressures facing families and GPs, please see Dementia UK’s Facing it Alone research report and its Only Together vision paper for recommendations on better dementia care and support.