Dementia patients to benefit

Tuesday, 06 April, 2010

Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) is working with the Department of Health
(DH) to look at ways it and other ambulance services can provide better care for patients suffering from dementia.

"While dementia is high on the national agenda for improving care and patient and carer experience, it presents very different challenges to ambulance Clinicians as the condition itself is
invariably not the cause of the emergency," explains Vicky O'Leary, Paramedic Clinical Lead for GWAS.

"The emergency may not even be directly linked to the patient's Dementia, but the condition can make it difficult for the Clinician to identify particular symptoms or gather specific information that
they need to treat the patient."

As a Paramedic, Vicky has had first hand experience encountering patients suffering from dementia and this experience has helped her understand the challenges faced by Clinicians to help shape the strategy.

The work GWAS is carrying out in partnership with the DH has led to the development of this strategy to improve ambulance staff's awareness about dementia. Vicky said: "We began by asking all our Clinicians to complete a survey detailing what they believed were the challenges when attending a patient with dementia, and how frequently they attend them.

"From this information, we have developed the strategy and also shared the findings with our local university so the learning is incorporated in future training and development for our staff."

The findings are also being made available to ambulances services nationally. Vicky also said "The strategy covers raising the awareness of dementia among our clinical staff, including
the range of presenting characteristics, medications in use and some simple tips on how to communicate with patients who have the condition.

"This has been developed as an information leaflet available to all Clinicians. We have also provided information to our staff on further education and additional reading around the subject of dementia. "The next step is to open up alternative ways of providing care that will result in a patient with Dementia not automatically being transported to an acute hospital emergency department unless it is needed to receive treatment to a specific clinical condition linked to the emergency call.

"The final stage of our strategy is the introduction of an information leaflet designed to provide support, information and useful links for patients suffering from Dementia, their families and carers."

• For more information, or to share what you are doing about dementia in your region, please contact Vicky O'Leary at

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