Here in Shropshire, we’re developing a new dementia action plan.
Two years ago a commissioner held a meeting of some stakeholders, inviting people from mainly voluntary organisations to suggest what a dementia strategy for Shropshire might look like.
We hadn’t then formed the Shropshire Dementia Action Alliance.
There were no people with dementia and carers present.
But the Health and Wellbeing Board wanted to declare a “Year of Dementia” in Shropshire, so it needed a strategy document.
The then commissioning lead for Dementia then sat at her desk and wrote our strategy.
(Oh. By the way, she had no experience of, or expertise in, Dementia.)
And from that wonderfully uninspiring document sprung an Action Plan.
Which was equally flat, retrospective, unimaginative, and uninformed.
So we had our Year of Dementia.
Well, it was the start of the national Dementia Friends thing, and I and others trained as champions and delivered some awareness sessions. Quite a few council staff were inducted through this.
And a pilot project was hatched to introduce some memory service staff into a handful of GP surgeries for a day a week, to help with information for newly diagnosed patients. Good idea but not innovative exactly.
The diagnosis rate in Shropshire was below 50%. As a result of the government initiative (dosh to GPs) this was raised to around 65% by the end of last year. (Now 70%.)
Note, this was the government, not the local council or CCG. There was nothing new from the people sitting around the table at the Health and Wellbeing Board.
Nothing else happened. No new resources. No new support.
In fact, the CCG CUT its funding of dementia services by 33% over three years during this period.
The council is being stripped by the government of the capacity to respond to care needs as well.
And the Year of Dementia was a resounding empty bucket.
Now, after a little influencing by Shropshire Dementia Action Alliance and others, Public Health here, bless them, have funded a project to renew the action plan. And of course, implicitly, the strategy.
Seem the wrong way round? Well, yes, it is, but it’s “political”.
And the project is being run as a truly co-productive programme.
So I found myself last week at a young onset dementia and carer group, talking about services, what works, what would be better, helpful, truly supportive…
It was an absolutely fantastic session. Fun, thoughtful, provocative at times…and very lively. Put us together and you can’t shut us up!
If, of course, you want to.
So I am really hopeful that the three months’ work talking to people with dementia, carers, providers, clinicians, Shropshire Dementia Action Alliance…will result in a genuinely co-produced model.
Which the CCG will find it hard to destroy.
If, of course, it should it want to.
And then we’ll have progress. At last.
If, of course, commissioners understand the huge benefits of investing in support for people affected by dementia.
And if, of course, they are prepared to shift funding into what works for us, people living with dementia.