NEWLY diagnosed dementia patients in Scotland will receive a year of specialist care, as part of a scheme that will also see dedicated support for the families of those suffering from the condition, ministers have promised.
The Scottish Government said the guarantee of a year of specialist care was the first of its kind in the world and would ensure that all people newly diagnosed with dementia received at least a year of “person-centred” support, provided by a healthcare worker.
A group of 100 “dementia champions” have been recruited from among frontline NHS employees, such as nurses and clinical staff, with the pledge of a year’s dedicated support for patients and their families coming into force from next year.
The package of support, worth more than £1 million, will see the number of dementia champions working in hospitals trebling to 300 by 2013.
A further £750,000 is being spent on recruiting specialist dementia nurses at each of Scotland’s 14 health boards.
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said it was “vital we focus on post-diagnostic support” for dementia suffers to ensure that the needs of patients were met.
“Providing the very best care for every older person on every occasion, in care homes and in hospitals, continues to be a personal priority for me,” she said.
“It is also vital that we focus on post-diagnostic support, and that is why I have introduced this new national commitment. Getting the right support in place at this stage of the illness can greatly help improve the quality of care throughout the journey of the illness.”
However, Ms Sturgeon was warned by a senior MSP that it could be “damaging” for the government to focus the scheme solely on those newly diagnosed with dementia, which affects 82,000 Scots – a figure that is expected to double during the next 25 years.
Scottish Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “Given dementia is a disease that gets worse as time goes on, only working with patients for a period of one year could be a missed opportunity to learn more about the illness and the impact it has as it worsens.”
He added: “It can be damaging to provide support for a set period of time, only to withdraw it suddenly, particularly when dealing with such a complex mental illness.”
Henry Simmons, the chief executive of Alzheimer Scotland, said the commitment to a year’s support would deliver “meaningful change” for patients and their families.
“Scotland has had tremendous success in facing one of the key challenges of dementia: encouraging people to come forward and making sure they receive a prompt diagnosis,” Mr Simmons said.
“Recent statistics show that we are leading the way in this regard, compared to our counterparts in England and Wales.
“The new national commitment to a guarantee of one year’s post-diagnostic support is a perfect way to build on this.”
He added: “We also welcome the new dementia champions, who are a vital component in delivering meaningful change to people with dementia and their families.”