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Major overhaul of dementia services in Dorset

elderly hands

Published at 11:54am 1st April 2019.

A major overhaul of dementia services is being planned in Dorset in a bid to tackle care inequalities.

Thousands of people in the county are living with some form of the disease but staffing pressures have increased in recent years, forcing the “temporary” closure of two day hospitals.

Dorset clinical commissioning group (CCG) has put together a draft document outlining plans which it hopes to introduce next year.

A review of dementia care services was made a priority in its 2014 five-year plan but postponed until 2016 as a result of the clinical services review.

Diane Bardwell, project manager for the dementia services review, said she hoped its plans, which will require an £800,000 increase to the county’s £11.1 million annual spend in the area, help tackle problems within the existing system.

“The dementia services review was enacted following concerns about the existing pathways of care, increasing demand for services, rising costs, an ageing population and national policy,” the draft document says.

Care elderly lady in wheelchair

Problems with staff recruitment and retention are highlighted as particular concerns in how care for people with dementia is managed.

Specialist facilities at Blandford Community Hospital and Weymouth Community Hospital were forced to “temporarily” close due to a lack of qualified staff in 2013 and 2016 respectively.

The document says it is “not feasible” currently to reopen the facilities which cost about £2 million a year to run.

“At the original inception of the project there was an expectation that funds from the temporarily closed units would be available for reinvestment,” it adds.

“However, as time has passed, these funds have been utilised and reinvested into various community services.”

Funding to cover the estimated £800,000 cost increase the new system of care would bring will instead come from other sources.

More than 8,000 people in Dorset have some form of dementia although it is estimated that a further 2,000 remain undiagnosed.

One of the main plans included in the shake-up of services in the county is the planned introduction of coordinators who will act as a point of contact for people with the disease.

It says that the current situation where the only specialist inpatient beds are at Alderney Hospital in Poole is “far from ideal” due to travel distances for some people, the 40 beds there are “sufficient” to meet demand.

Its own analysis has shown that it can take more than 3.5 hours to reach the hospital from some parts of the county via public transport.

Another area of focus for the review was the “gap” in support for people between the time of diagnosis to more significant symptoms of the disease developing.

The clinical commissioning group is planning to launch a consultation on its proposals in the next few months with an aim of the new services being introduced in about a year’s time.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter

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