More support for dementia sufferers in Norfolk and Suffolk

Dementia patients receiving hospital treatment are being offered fresh hope with the launch of a �450,000 community scheme to help them go home sooner and safely.

Two Norfolk hospitals are to receive support from a specialist team of dementia workers as part of a series of steps being taken to improve care for people with the condition in this region.

The news comes at the start of Dementia Awareness Week and as it was revealed that a snapshot look at one hospital in Norfolk found more than a quarter of all its adult patients had a degree of dementia.

And it also comes as a landmark report into the funding of long-term social care is to be published, which it is hoped will end the injustices which can force older people to sell their homes to pay for care and face a postcode lottery of varying costs and services depending on where they live.

As well as the new hospital dementia teams, 13 primary care dementia workers are currently being recruited across Norfolk. They will be qualified mental health staff, working from a number of GP surgeries to help with early assessment and diagnosis, and early treatment of dementia.

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A week-long series of events will be taking place across Norfolk and Suffolk and show that the issue of dementia is a high priority to be tackled in health and social care.

Dementia is recognised as one of the biggest health and social challenges in the country, with the number of sufferers predicted to rise by 51pc within the next 15 years. But in Norfolk the number is expected to increase by 62pc in that time – pushing the total to above 20,000 – and in Suffolk by 65pc.

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The Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance, unveiled earlier this year, brings together some of the biggest health, social and education organisations to seek out the best research, ideas, technology and training to make East Anglia a leader, nationally and internationally, in dementia care.

As well as helping families to deal with dementia and providing better care, it aims to have a real impact in making health service money for social care go further, as well as cutting bed-blocking in hospitals.

Willie Cruickshank, of the alliance, said: 'The only way to deliver dementia care properly is by working together and co-operation and we are starting to see this being done to a level that it has not been done before.

'People who are in hospital with dementia have a 44pc longer stay in hospital, because once the acute illness has been dealt with then it takes a while to get that person back home.'

Partners in the alliance include the University of East Anglia, Norfolk County Council, NHS Norfolk, NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, City College Norwich, James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Archant, publisher of the EDP.

City College Norwich's School of Health and Community Studies is hosting a dementia awareness conference today for almost 100 future health and social care practitioners.

For Dementia Awareness Week, from July 3 to 9, the Alzheimer's Society is encouraging people to 'Remember the person' by being a friend to someone with dementia.

The campaign is trying to take the fear out of dementia and gives people 10 simple things they can do to help a family living with dementia.

The Alzheimer's Society branches in Norfolk and Suffolk are also holding a host of public awareness events and tea parties throughout the week.

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The new hospital Dementia Intensive Support Team (DIST) will consist of specially trained nurses employed by Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (NWMHFT).

Working in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, they will identify patients whose dementia is the underlying cause of admission, or causing their stay in hospital to be unnecessarily extended.

They will work with hospital staff, the patients and their carers to help them overcome the crisis in their condition so they can return home.

Dr Chris Francis, a Norwich GP and member of NHS Norfolk's clinical cabinet, said: 'It is quite proper and appropriate that some patients who also have dementia will need hospital care.

'But we also know that there are some for whom dementia caused the crisis in their health. So there are benefits of this new service for patients in that they can go home sooner, where they will feel safer and happier, and benefits to the NHS as a whole because it is a better use of our resources.'

The DIST will operate its 'in-reach' service to the two hospitals seven days a week, starting in the autumn. It has been funded by NHS Norfolk at a cost of �450,000 and planned by them in partnership with the trusts.

Gary Hazeldon, partnership and integration manager at NWMHFT, said: 'Our staff will place great emphasis on building relationships, trust and providing practical solutions with a 'can do' and caring attitude. Their skills and expertise in dementia care will help to reduce distress, improve wellbeing and manage many aspects of daily life for people with dementia and their carers.'

From a hospital's perspective, offering specialist help to patients with dementia is vital. A snapshot check carried out at the N&N in November 2010 showed that 28.5pc of all adult patients had a degree of dementia.

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Success of dementia community team

The 'in-reach' hospital DIST is being established after the successful trial of a community Dementia Intensive Support Team which has been operating in the north and south of Norfolk.

The community DIST staff go to the aid of dementia patients in their homes or nursing homes to help stave off a sudden crisis.

Many of these might previously have needed admission to the Blickling Ward at the Julian Hospital in Norwich for in-patient support. But since its introduction in June 2010, the community DIST staff has seen more than 240 people and 86pc have been able to remain at home. Admissions to Blickling Ward have been reduced by more than 25pc.

The team help people with home care packages, can help alleviate stress experienced by carers, and provide education about dementia. They are also able to monitor medication and give reminders as necessary, as well as assessing the self-care of individuals and their safety.

Early assessment, diagnosis and treament for people with dementia

Thirteen Primary Care Dementia Workers are currently being recruited across Norfolk. They will be qualified mental health staff, working from a number of GP surgeries to help with early assessment and diagnosis, and early treatment of dementia.

The initiative involves NHS Norfolk, Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Norfolk County Council, GPs and partners in the independent and voluntary sector.

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) - a treatment for mild to moderate dementia - is to be expanded to the more rural parts of Norfolk through community mental health teams, and partner organisations such as the Alzheimer's Society. It means that those with dementia will be able to join CST groups in the community.

Community facilities are also being used to provide the treatment in more localised settings, for better patient care and convenience.

Education and training about how to care those with dementia is to be expanded. Projects will aim to offer training and education to care staff in hospitals, care homes, domiciliary organisations, day services, charitable organisations and other settings. There will also be regular training sessions from consultant psychiatrists to GPs.

Clive Rennie, NHS Norfolk's assistant director for mental health, said: 'We are focussing on treating more people at home, at community level and in acute hospitals.'

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