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Dementia: facing up to the challenges in primary care


Paul Edwards, Director of Clinical Services for Dementia UK, on how the Admiral Nurse service works with primary care.

Dementia is one of the greatest challenges for 21st century society. It not only causes intense pressure for families but also for our separate health and social care systems which are struggling to cope with growing numbers of families living with this life-limiting condition. For many families, GPs are often the first point of contact in terms of any concerns around dementia and ultimately getting a diagnosis. As a result of this, it is often these primary care professionals who carry the greatest expectation of clinical support. At Dementia UK we’ve recognised this and that is why we want to link up our specialist dementia Admiral Nurses to primary care professionals, as well as GP services more specifically.

Specialist dementia Admiral Nurses are ideally placed to provide the emotional and practical support to help families navigate through the toughest cases of dementia. They also help to bridge the gap between health and social care, helping families get the support commensurate to their needs. For example, they work in homes to reduce avoidable hospital admissions, they work in care homes
and hospitals as advocates of best practice in dementia care and they also work in hospices to support families through the challenging and often distressing end of life stage of dementia.

However it’s clear they also have a role to play within primary care, particularly when the new NHS plan puts extra pressure on GP services to manage long-term conditions. In this regard, we want to make sure that people with dementia get access to specialist dementia support and our GP colleagues have wider levels of support options that can be coordinated through specialist Admiral Nurses.

We have some excellent evidence of how our Nurses support GPs and the wider primary care teams to support families in their community. Our Nurses can take the pressure of already stretched GP practices and help to develop the all encompassing model that families and people with dementia desperately need. We now have Admiral Nurses running clinics and making home visits as directed
by the GP and other primary care team members. This approach crucially brings their care closer to home and makes it more accessible.

And even where a particular area doesn’t have an Admiral Nurse service, we would like every GP practice to be aware of our national Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline. GPs can signpost people to our Helpline so that they have another avenue of support when times get too difficult.

We’ve recently been working with the Royal College of General Practitioners in developing information for people with dementia and their carers around accessing GP online services. This partnership cements our commitment to people having access to care and support much more readily and quickly.

Over the next few years, we want to see more and more Admiral Nurses supporting GP practices and primary care professionals right across the UK – we are well on the road to making this happen.

Read more about our partnership with Dementia UK