A pioneering new service launched in South Gloucestershire and Bristol is helping people with dementia to get the care they need.
The GP-provided Memory Assessment Service, developed by South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), has increased dementia diagnosis rates in South Gloucestershire from 38% to 58% in its first year and reduced waiting times from up to nine months to less than six weeks.
The service is delivered by local GP practices using a simple screening tool, and is now being adopted in Gloucestershire, North Somerset and as far afield as London.
In recognition of its success, the service has been shortlisted for a prestigious Health Service Journal award for Innovation in Mental Health.
Clinical Lead for Dementia at South Gloucestershire CCG and local GP Dr Peter Bagshaw said, “Our aging population means that supporting people with dementia is a top priority for the CCG, and early diagnosis of dementia is particularly important because it allows treatment plans to be put in place as soon as possible.
“It’s fantastic that the HSJ has recognised the scheme by shortlisting it for this award and marking the importance of improving the diagnosis of dementia across the country.”
Approximately 5,500 people in South Gloucestershire and Bristol have some form of dementia and numbers are rising as our population ages. Early diagnosis of the condition can play a key part in helping people to get the care they need, whereas when dementia is left untreated it can increase the chance of people becoming ill or injured and add to pressures on NHS services.
This is a particular concern in areas such as South Gloucestershire that have a higher proportion of elderly people than the national average.
Before the new service, local patients were required to attend a specialist Memory Clinic to be assessed for dementia. This could be a major barrier to those with dementia, who are often elderly and frail and may find it difficult to travel far.
The new scheme saw a screening tool introduced at GP’s practices so that patients could be diagnosed by their local doctor or health care professional. The CCG worked with specialist memory service nurses to share expertise and develop the tool, which is as quick and accurate as the previous tool and can be used by all health professionals.
GPs are still welcome to refer to the specialist Memory Service under the new system. Especially in cases where patients are younger or their condition is more complex.
Residents who suspect that they, or someone they care for, may be showing signs of dementia, are encouraged to contact their GP for information and advice.