The Head of Programmes for the Chief Allied Health Professions (AHPs) Officer highlights the importance of the AHPs contributing to the National Audit of Dementia:
With increasing technology in my life I confess the time I devote to reading a good book has become increasingly pressurised.
So, as I packed for a holiday last month, I switched off the Wi-Fi and grabbed some recommended paperbacks. Top of the list was Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey. The story is seen through the eyes of Maud, an 82 year old whose memory is deteriorating and she is becoming increasingly reliant on family members. It is a crime novel through a very different lens, and I couldn’t put it down.
As I read, I recognised Maud’s symptoms from family members and from my work as a physiotherapist. I shared her frustrations, and winced at the sharp words from people around her. The story captures vividly the huge challenges Maud’s symptoms cause for both herself and those around her as she tries to find her friend Elizabeth.
The symptoms of dementia include problems with memory loss, thinking speed, language, understanding, judgement, mood, behaviour, movement, and difficulties carrying out daily activities such as shopping, washing, dressing and cooking. One in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia and about a quarter of hospital beds are needed by people with dementia at any one time. Providing the right care and support can be complex, and we know that there is variation in practice.
People with dementia are supported by many of the 14 allied health professionals (AHPs). I was delighted to see more inclusion of the roles of AHPs in assessment, management and support for people living with dementia and their carers in the latest NICE Dementia Guideline. This includes recommendations on occupational therapy and speech and language therapy, as well as staff training and education.
Priority three of AHPs into Action, our national framework for AHPs, focuses on our roles in evaluating, improving and evidencing the impact of our services. Participating in national audits, and acting on their recommendations, is an important way to do this.
The National Audit of Dementia assesses the quality of care provided to people with dementia when they are in hospital. Part of this audit focuses on understanding the support and training that healthcare staff receive, in order to help them provide the best care possible.
In round three of the audit in 2016, over 1,700 AHPs submitted their experiences, including training they had received, whether night time bed moves were avoided for people with dementia, and how supported they felt by dementia specialist staff in the hospital.
The 2016 audit made a number of recommendations for improving care for people with dementia. It was able to highlight that the nutritional needs of people with dementia are not always being met, and that hospital staff need more support from dementia specialist staff, particularly out of hours.
Round four of the audit is now live, and we would like even more involvement from AHPs, so that we can continue to improve the quality of care for people with dementia, their families and carers.
If you work in a hospital in England or Wales, please complete the staff questionnaire between now and 21 September 2018. It will take less than 20 minutes.
We know that AHPs are keen to engage, so let’s see if we can double our contributions this year.