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Seven new ‘ambassadors’ are to begin spreading the word about the importance of diagnosing more patients with dementia in a bid to help improve patients’ and their carers’ quality of life.
The seven, who are based in London, the south, the north, the midlands, and Scotland, will be helping local GPs in England to use the best possible methods to diagnose more people.
Dr Sunil Gupta, Dr Nick Cartmell, Dr David Findlay, Dr Elizabeth Barrett, Deborah Cohen, Dr Daniel Harwood, Dr Paul Twomey are NHS England’s new network of clinical advisors or ‘ambassadors’, and are experts in dementia care from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Among them are GPs, commissioners and educators and they will be offering one to one support for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), or GP-led local health committees, to help boost their expertise in this area.
Dr Nick Cartmell, a GP at Ashburton Surgery in Devon and Clinical Advisor for Dementia in the south, said it was a very exciting role to be taking on.
“People with dementia can access better quality care from receiving a diagnosis and as an ambassador I plan to help the GP surgeries in my region to identify more people who have this condition.
“In my surgery in Devon there are 61 people on our dementia register who receive treatment and support in our area.
“It’s important to give people, both those with dementia and their carers, the opportunity to access all the support now on offer in our communities and to have access to drugs which could improve their quality of life for longer.”
There is an unacceptable variation in dementia services across the country and the current rate of diagnosis is less than 50 per cent.
By 2015 there is an ambition by the NHS that two thirds of the estimated number of people with dementia will receive a diagnosis and high quality post diagnostic support.
Last week, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, called on GPs to spearhead the NHS drive to identify people with dementia and announced a £5 million funding boost for GPs to increase identification of people with the illness.
Dr Sunil Gupta, a GP in Essex and Clinical Advisor for Dementia for Midlands and East, has written to GPs in his area with the top ten reasons to make a timely diagnosis of dementia.
He said: “While some GPs may be sceptical about the benefits of diagnosing a patient with dementia, a timely diagnosis can make a significant difference to the quality of a patient’s life and the support they and their carer receives.
“A timely diagnosis can enable the patient to receive the correct treatment, make decisions about their future and receive appropriate financial benefits. It can also help in research looking for better treatments for Dementia in the future as well as help to ensure there are sufficient services for patients with Dementia in an area.
“I really hope as an ambassador I can help to spread these important messages, reduce the stigma about dementia and really improve life for more patients.”
The ambassadors will be working closely with Regional, Area Team and Strategic Clinical Network colleagues.
Their focus is to support CCGs to improve the numbers of people able to access a timely diagnosis of dementia and appropriate care.
Their work will include providing one to one support to CCGs, sharing learning and best practice, providing tools, resources and guidance.
Professor Alistair Burns, the National Clinical Director for Dementia in NHS England, said: “Awareness of dementia is at its highest. We want it to be normal to talk about memory problems and to encourage people to come forward for an assessment if they or their families have concerns.
“We know that only around half of people with dementia receive a formal diagnosis. We believe that timely diagnosis of dementia allows people to access the emotional, practical and financial support that brings.
“It is a real privilege to be working with our new ambassadors who because of their experience and commitment to the field of dementia, will really be able to provide evidence based support to colleagues to bring about meaningful and tangible changes to the lives of people with dementia and their carers.”