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Four ways GP practices can become dementia friendly
Find out how one local Healthwatch has been showing GP practices how small changes can make a big difference to patients’ experiences of visiting the doctor.
There are around 850,000 people who live with dementia in the UK, and this figure is expected to rise to over a million by 2025. As more people are affected by dementia, it’s important that health and care services adapt to meet their needs.
In our report, Dementia services: Findings from the Healthwatch network, people told us about three important areas where they wanted to see improvements – information, support and environment.
In Devon, Healthwatch have been working with Exeter Dementia Action Alliance to show GP practices how small changes can make a big difference to patients’ experiences of visiting the doctor.
What changes can GP surgeries make to better support people with dementia?
1. Improve the environment
People living with dementia can find it difficult to read everyday signs and may require additional help to find their way around. Having dementia friendly signs, which include symbols and pictures, can be easier for people to understand.
2. Longer appointments
People with dementia can struggle to remember to attend appointments. Having an easy-to-use appointments system and sending reminders to patients or their carers can help to reduce missed appointments. Communication and understanding is often an issue for people living with dementia. It can sometimes be difficult for patients to recall past discussions regarding their care, so offering double appointments can give people extra time to express themselves.
3. Increase dementia awareness for all staff
Some staff at GP practices are unable to spot when patients have dementia. Regular awareness training for staff could help them understand what information and support people need to manage their condition. Dementia Friends, an initiative run by the Alzheimer’s Society, offers training and resources to support organisations.
4. Better community engagement
By listening to people from every part of the community, services can understand what patients with dementia and their carers need.
Find out more
These top tips have been turned into a booklet and shared with local GP surgeries in Devon. The resource has received positive feedback from those who plan services. One local commissioner said:
“A few small changes can make a big difference to people with dementia and their families. GP practices putting these simple changes into practice mean better patient experience and represent a worthwhile approach to improving the lives of people with dementia and their care partners.”
What changes can your GP surgery make?
If you have an idea for how your local GP surgery can make a small change to help support people with dementia, speak to your local Healthwatch.