The Government has today published a mandate to Health Education England (HEE) that sets out plans for educating and training all NHS staff to improve patient care, including for patients with dementia.

The mandate – which lasts from April 2013 to March 2015 – includes a provision that “all NHS staff that look after patients with dementia will go through a dementia awareness programme” and will receive foundation-level training. HEE aims for 100,000 staff to receive this training by March 2014. The aim of the programme is to enable staff to spot the early symptoms of dementia and to ensure they are aware of the needs of patients and their families and carers so that they may “provide safe, dignified and compassionate care”.

The Council welcomes these plans, which are in line with recommendations made in our 2009 report Dementia: ethical issues. This report highlighted the importance of ongoing education, training, and support to help people with dementia and their carers tackle dilemmas they may face in day-to-day life. Specifically, it urged the Department of Health to consider how such education and support could be provided to assist ethical decision-making which balances the various interests of patients and of those who care for them. The Council also recommended that all those involved in the direct care of people with dementia, including health and social care professionals, should have access to forums for sharing and receiving support in making ethical decisions.

We note that a ‘timely’ diagnosis may not necessarily mean an early diagnosis; while there are important benefits to early diagnosis, not every person will find that these advantages outweigh the possible disadvantages. The Council concluded that people should have access to good quality assessment and support from the time they, or their families, become concerned about symptoms that relate to a possible diagnosis of dementia.