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.
Older man reading

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.

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.
— Local Commissioner

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.

Find out more about Healthwatch Devon’s guide for GP surgeries

Dementia action week 

Alzheimer’s Society’s research shows that many people are worried about ‘saying the wrong thing’ to people living with dementia. And despite almost all of us knowing someone affected, two-thirds of people living with dementia report feeling isolated and lonely.

Read their tips and advice for help on what to say to a dementia patient. Find out more

Do health and social care services know what you really think?

Share your ideas and experiences and help services hear what works, what doesn’t, and what you want from care in the future. 

Speak to your local Healthwatch