Date: 26 October 2018
The NIHR has funded a new programme of research investigating how to introduce dementia support workers into GP surgeries, to improve the quality of life for dementia patients and their carers.
Led by the University of Plymouth, the £2.7m study funded by NIHR’s Programme Grants for Applied Research will develop a person-centred package of care for GP surgeries.
The package will focus on introducing a dementia support worker for people with dementia and their families, who will link with the rest of the patient’s clinical team and help the patient navigate through the health and care service.
According to the Carers Trust, there are currently 850,000 people in the UK with dementia, and over half a million people with dementia living at home supported by unpaid carers.
Dementia support workers offer one-to-one support for people affected by dementia and their carers, such as information on the condition and support to cope with day-to-day challenges.
This new study will develop and test a package of dementia support for general practices that aims to improve the experience of care and the health and wellbeing in people with dementia.
If successful, the intervention could help reduce acute health problems, prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and lead to savings for the NHS.
The programme, which will run for five years, will also provide support for the patient’s carer, helping to reduce the burden of care.
The study is supported by the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (PenCLAHRC) and our Research Design Service (RDS).
Researcher Dr Val Mann, Associate Professor in Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Plymouth, said: “Care for people with dementia is too patchy and inconsistent at the moment – some don’t receive enough support and their condition can transform very quickly. Dementia support workers, although highly valued, only exist in some places; health systems are reluctant to invest as no definitive trial to show benefit has been carried out.
“If successful, this support package really has the potential to improve quality of life for a patient and their carer, and inform practice and process in the NHS.”
Dorothy Tudor is a carer for her partner Bob, who has dementia. She said: “Having a named person who, as a carer, we can contact now is important – not next week, not two weeks’ time. Hopefully this research will help to do away with hospital admissions, and help all the pain that we suffer.”
Professor Richard Byng, GP and Professor in Primary Care Research at the University of Plymouth, who leads the study said: “Dementia is a very serious diagnosis and there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ for care. But patients and their carers are often left on their own to deal with the condition, and only come back to GPs when further problems develop.
“We will develop and evaluate a system of personalised support based in GP surgeries, which we hope will also help prevent harmful or unnecessary admissions.”
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