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Support workers given key role in new Wales dementia plan

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A £10m dementia action plan for Wales will fund new support workers to help people carry on living independently in the community, according to ministers.

The action plan, published today, sets ambitions to create new ways of caring for patients as well as improving training, increasing support worker numbers and strengthening collaboration between staff in social care and housing.

“I have a clear vision for Wales to be a dementia friendly nation”

Vaughan Gething

The Welsh government said the new document – the Dementia Action Plan for Wales 2018-22 – would “build” on previous work in the country to improve dementia care.

It noted that since 2015 it had introduced the dementia support worker role, occupational therapy in mental health units for older people, and dementia teams in district hospitals.

It had also supported closer working between primary care and residential homes through link nurses, the government highlighted.

The plan encourages GP practices to offer a new “enhanced service” for residential and nursing care in Wales that ensures a review of physical and mental health for all residents when they move into a care home.

“This will ensure a comprehensive review of physical and mental health for all residents when they move into a care home, including a review of medication and antipsychotic prescribing,” it stated.

“The launch of Welsh government’s Dementia Action Plan today is pivotal”

Sue Phelps

In addition, under the plan, everyone diagnosed will receive a tailored information pack and be offered access to a dementia support worker or equivalent to act as a “key point of contact to provide appropriate tailored information and support as well as sign-posting”.

One of the seven key actions in the report was stated as “reviewing and standardising the role of dementia support workers – increasing their numbers as required”.

It added that, by June this year, the support role would have been reviewed to ensure those with dementia in the community had a dedicated support worker that met “agreed standards”.

However, the plan neither stated how many such support workers were currently in post nor outlined any specific ambitions regarding the number it wanted or expected to see recruited in future.

Meanwhile, the plan said the additional need to “develop an approach which builds upon the support that is provided by dementia support workers”.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

‘Real time’ monitoring of HCAIs in Welsh hospitals

Vaughan Gething

To achieve this, it suggested the need for flexible multi-disciplinary teams whose role would include developing individual care plans, speech and language therapy, counselling, and pain management as part of an introduction to palliative care.

Regarding care in general hospital settings, the government said it was supporting NHS Wales staff to ensure they had the “knowledge and skills they need to provide the best care for patients with dementia”.

Launching the plan, Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething said: “I have a clear vision for Wales to be a dementia friendly nation that recognises the rights of people with dementia to feel valued and live as independently as possible in their communities.”

He also cited the Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care in Wales, which was published last month and called for new models of care that were organised around patients and in community settings.

“As the parliamentary review made clear, we need to look at new ways of delivering health and care services,” said Mr Gething.

He said the action plan would also set out “how we will raise awareness of ways to reduce the risk of dementia, ensure the wider population understands the challenges of living with dementia, improve diagnoses and support the families and carers of those living with dementia”.

Sue Phelps, county director for the charity Alzheimer’s Society Cymru, welcomed the announcement of the plan. “For the 45,000 people affected by dementia in Wales and their families, the launch of Welsh government’s Dementia Action Plan today is pivotal,” she said.

“We have campaigned long and hard for a plan that recognises the rights of people affected by the condition,” she said. “We hope this initial three-year commitment will bring about the changes that people with dementia have told us they need, such as receiving a timely diagnosis and access to support services to enable people to live well with dementia.” 

However, the action plan would only work if it continually included people living with the condition, noted Ms Phelps.

Progress on its aims will be overseen by a Dementia Delivery Assurance Implementation Group, which will include people living with dementia and their carers and families.

In addition, the government said the plan would be subject to a review after three years to ensure the actions remain ambitious and relevant.

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