New Dementia ‘Ambassadors’ to help GPs and patients

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.”

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  1. Janice Erskine says:

    Can I just clarify which ambassador belongs to which area?

  2. Denise Richardson says:

    I agree that GPs do need to be supported to improve timely access to services. Patients and their carers also need to be supported to access their GP as soon as they think something might be wrong rather than wait until crisis point. There may not be a cure for dementia, but it can be managed with medication the earlier the better.

  3. Sue Fitzell says:

    Could you please advise me who the champion is for the South East. I think this is a very positive move forward for people with dementia, I have recently needed to reaseach services in my area due to concerns about a family member. None of the information was from the GP and I needed to seek advise from charities so we could plan a way forward. I feel this training and support for GP’s will improve patiernt care.

  4. Susan says:

    Who is the Ambassador for the South East and how can they be contacted?


  5. Paul Walsh says:

    Who is the lead in the North and how is he/s contacted?

  6. Peter J S Ashley says:

    Unfortunately, politics (small ‘p’ and maybe a large ‘P’) gets in the way of harnessing the very willing services of some people with a dementia like myself who have vocalised our views about the subject as experts through experience. I have been living with dementia with Lewy bodies for 15 years and through the support of others, professional’, academic’s and carers alike, along with my own determination to fight my condition, still enable me to function reasonably today. This is now compounded by a diagnosis of cancer. Why oh why do some think they know better than those of us who live with the consequences of our condition and are only too willing to help others – the logic of this fails me!