NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) has been named the UK’s number one health board for the diagnosis and early treatment of dementia.
An independent “UK dementia map” complied by The Alzheimer’s Society has revealed that people in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area are being diagnosed and treated for dementia faster than anywhere else in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
NHSGGC Associate Medical Director for Old Age Psychiatry Dr Graham Jackson said: “These independent findings show that our rigorous management of community dementia services throughout the health board area is paying real dividends for our patients.
“Early diagnosis is essential. Whist we cannot reverse the effects of dementia there are medications which if started early enough can slow down the development of symptoms so people can maintain their quality of life for longer and have a say in their future care and treatment.”
Dementia can affect all sections of society regardless of gender, race or socio-economic grouping however people can go undiagnosed and untreated for years. As such it is much easier to predict the ‘anticipated’ number of dementia sufferers each area of the UK is likely to have. NHSGGC’s performance has been assessed based on the percentage of predicted dementia suffers to have been diagnosed in the population the Health Board serves.
Henry Simmons, Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland, said, “It is extremely encouraging to see NHSGGC’s achievement in prompt diagnosis and treatment of people with dementia. There are two Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Nurses in this board, as well as many recently-graduated Dementia Champions – all of whom work with their NHS colleagues to improve understanding of this illness and care for those affected by it. We still have a long way to go to make sure that no-one has to face dementia on their own, but NHSGGC are clearly moving in the right direction.”
Dr Jackson added: “We have been working extremely hard to meet the needs of those with dementia and to directly benefit patients by ensuring they are diagnosed quickly and receive treatment early. Alongside Alzheimer Scotland, in primary care and in mental health teams across the Board we have been raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of dementia in the population so that people can speak to their GP as soon as they have concerns and, where appropriate, begin treatment.
“A steering group oversees the planning of community dementia care across the whole health board area this has enabled us to identify hotspots where diagnosis rates were lower than anticipated so that these could be directly targeted.
“Our success, on which we will continue to build, is testament to the hard work of a whole range of community healthcare teams including GPs and mental health practitioners.”
One patient who has benefited from this all encompassing approach is Mr Alexander (Alex) McMillan, aged 75, from Rutherglen who was diagnosed six years ago with Alzheimer’s Disease.
His wife Maria McMillan explained: “I knew that something wasn’t quite right with Alex so I insisted he went to the GP who sent him for a scan and then referred him to one of Dr Jackson’s team.
“Once there, the doctor was able to confirm that the scan and symptoms showed Alex had Alzheimer’s and explained the diagnosis. I knew what Alzheimer’s was but Alex didn’t so we had to explain that. Shortly afterwards a district nurse came round to the house to speak to us about treatment and what our options were.
“We’ve been very lucky in that Alex’s condition has not deteriorated and he’s still very involved in his care and can do things himself. A lot of this is due to the fantastic support and help we’ve had from doctors and the team in the area. Alex goes to the Rutherglen Carers’ Dementia Group which helped develop a “Book of Life” which is a written record of his life, interests and opinions and values so if he does start to deteriorate, he can look back and remember. It’s also for our GP and people who may need to help care for him in the future as they can see the man he was and what he did in life.”
Mrs McMillan added: “Meeting Alex you wouldn’t guess that he has this illness and we’ve been very lucky that he’s still able to do so much. He just gets on with things and we know that we’re getting the best care we can which is a big help in dealing with all of this.”
Notes to Editor
In 2011 there were more than 9200 people with a diagnosis of dementia in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
In 2010 NHSGGC surpassed the Scottish Government HEAT target for diagnosis and treatment for dementia a year early.
The Alzheimer Society / Alzheimer Scotland dementia map can be viewed at: http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementiamap
Photographs are available of Dr Graham Jackson and of Mr and Mrs McMillan on request.
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