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Tool launched to reduce ‘variability’ in dementia training quality

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Tailoring and face-to-face delivery are among the keys to providing effective training on dementia, according to researchers behind a new tool that is being adopted nationally to assess programmes.

The national workforce planning body Health Education England said development of the audit tool was sparked by recognition that there was a wide range of training available that varied in quality.

“There is a wide range of dementia education and training packages available and there is variability in terms of quality”

Jan Zietara

As a result, the audit tool has been launched to help standardise and improve the quality of training for nurses and other health and social care staff that provide care for patients with dementia.

The tool is based on the findings from a study – titled What Works in dementia training and education? – that sought to identify the key elements for effective dementia training and education. The study was led by Leeds Beckett University and funded by the Department of Health.

It was based on 152 published papers and identified that previous research had predominantly been conducted in care home settings, largely with qualified nurses or care assistants.

Based, on their review, the researchers concluded there were around 10 features that would be useful to consider in designing future dementia training and educational programmes.

The study authors then distilled their findings into an audit tool that can be used by health and social care providers, trainers and commissioners to help with training design, delivery and purchasing.

In particular, they highlighted five “key ingredients” for effective training that they then incorporated into the audit tool, which are as follows:

  • Tailoring training to the service setting and staff group attending
  • Using face-to-face delivery methods with opportunity for interactive activities and group discussion
  • Inclusion of opportunities to apply learning within practice, or practice-based situations
  • Having training that is at least 3.5-hours duration with even longer training showing greater benefits
  • Delivery by an experience training facilitator who is also experienced in dementia care

Writing in the journal Review of Educational Research, the study authors said: “This review has identified a number of key features that seem to exist in effective dementia training and which support understanding of approaches to effective professional development and workplace education more broadly.”

HEE confirmed that it had now adopted the tool as its standard method for assessing the training materials and packages that it subsequently recommends to providers via its website.

“To date, care and training providers have had limited information about what to look”

Claire Surr

Jan Zietara, HEE’s national dementia education and training project lead, said it had recognised there was a “wide range” of dementia training packages available with “variability in terms of quality”.

“We were, therefore, keen to understand approaches that really make a difference to outcomes for people with dementia and their families,” she said.

“We considered that an audit tool would be a useful and practical output from ‘What Works?’ enabling those designing, delivering or commissioning education to focus on the quality of their training offer,” she added.

The research team was led by Professor Claire Surr, from Leeds Beckett, with colleagues from the University of Bradford and the University of Leeds.

Professor Surr said: “There has been a strong agenda around making sure we have an informed and effective dementia care workforce for a number of years and a huge drive, therefore, to increase staff training in that area.

“Health Education England is now interested in the most effective ways of delivering training that actually makes a difference to outcomes for people with dementia and their families,” she said.

Leeds Beckett University

Tool launched to reduce ‘variability’ in dementia training quality

Claire Surr

“To date, care and training providers have had limited information about what to look for when designing or purchasing a dementia training programme,” she noted.

Professor Surr said she hoped the audit tool would give individuals and organisations an “evidence-based set of criteria that reflect good practice in the design and delivery of dementia training”.

She added: “This may lead to money being invested in programmes that are more likely to lead to successful outcomes.”

The tool is free to use and available to download from the What Works? study website. The review on which it is based is also available for free from the Review of Educational Research website.

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