Make 2015 the year we end the isolation of dementia – Nigel Acheson

Public Health England and the Alzheimer’s Society published a report last month highlighting how people with dementia risked feelings of isolation over the Christmas period.

The numbers make stark reading – as we enter 2015 the number of people with dementia is set to top 850,000. It is estimated that by 2021 this number may rise to over a million.

Newspaper articles accompanied the release of the report, with stories of how patients with a diagnosis of dementia can be supported to overcome some of the feelings of isolation.

Shopping is a favourite activity for more than three quarters of dementia sufferers and being open about the diagnosis with shop staff can boost their confidence. Together with the Dementia Friends campaign, such openness and raised awareness can help to address problems such as a loss of independence and feelings of isolation.

There is much practical information for patients, families and carers on the NHS Choices website with links to other resources.

Many more patients, their families and carers could benefit from such support if the diagnosis is confirmed. We know that one in three people over 65 will develop dementia. The symptom of memory loss is the best known, but there are others such as difficulty with tasks requiring concentration, changes in personality or mood, periods of confusion and difficulty in finding the right words.

General practitioners are well placed to discuss and assess such symptoms and to begin the process of diagnosis if appropriate.

“When I was caring, I didn’t know what help was available and even when I did was uncomfortable with asking for help, but I knew that, like so many other carers, if I was given that little bit of support I would give my mum the best care in the world.” – Tommy Whitelaw, Dementia Carer Voices.

Already we are seeing an increased awareness of dementia, thanks to initiatives such as Dementia Friends and Dementia Carer Voices in Scotland. Following a diagnosis there is help and support available for those with dementia, their families and carers.

Maybe this year we will continue to see an increased number of people with dementia being assessed and having the diagnosis of dementia confirmed – this should help to stop the isolation felt by so many in the long December of 2014.

Mr Nigel Acheson MD PGCert (Patient Safety and Risk Management) FRCOG, Regional Medical Director (South), NHS England.

Covering the South Region of England, with a population of 13.4 million, Nigel supports delivery of the NHS England objective to improve patient outcomes. Developed from the NHS Constitution and the NHS Mandate the aim is to deliver effective, safe care which results in a positive experience for patients – to prevent illness where possible, enhance the lives for those living with long term conditions and improve the quality of care for those suffering a period of illness or injury.

Earlier this year he chaired one of the Keogh Reviews into the quality of care and treatment being provided by those hospital trusts in England that had been persistent outliers in mortality statistics.

Nigel is also a Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist, who worked previously in the Gynaecological Cancer Centre at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in Exeter.

With an active interest in both patient safety and improvement strategies, Nigel was a National Advisor and Clinical Lead to the Department of Health’s Enhanced Recovery Partnership Programme to improve the care for patients undergoing surgery prior to his appointment to NHS England.

Nigel was formerly the Medical Director for the Peninsula Cancer Network in the South West of England. In this role he supported the provision and development of high quality, safe cancer cervices across the Peninsula.

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