Services for older people in Dewsbury were spotlighted last month, during a visit to West Yorkshire by the National Director for Primary Care. Dr David Colin-Thome visited The Priestley Unit at Dewsbury District Hospital, to witness first hand the innovative work of two teams providing care for older people with dementia and other mental health problems.

The Continuing Care Team works with people in nursing and residential homes, and through their award winning work have been successful in reducing admissions to hospital. They are a multi-disciplinary team, working with older people with mental health problems in care homes in North Kirklees.

The team was introduced in 1999 in response to an increase in referrals to elderly mental health services and to an increase in admissions to hospital from nursing and residential homes. They work with individuals for an average of 10 – 12 weeks, enabling this vulnerable client group to achieve optimum mental health with the least disruption and disorientation. Referrals are received from 50 care homes across the North Kirklees area, with the team working with 80 – 100 clients at any one time.

The team has won national recognition and awards for its excellent work, and has had a significant impact on reducing admission to hospital for older people with dementia and other mental health problems.

The Priestley Day Unit is running education sessions for those who care for people diagnosed with dementia – helping them to understand the illness and cope in a very practical way. The Unit provides short-term assessment and treatment facilities for people experiencing and recovering from a variety of mental health problems.

It runs from Monday to Friday supporting different client groups on each day, offering a range of help, including – memory support, anxiety management, bereavement, transcultural issues, long term monitoring and an aftercare support programme on discharge.

The education programme offers care for clients on the day unit, whilst carers receive information about the diagnosis, expected changes in behaviour and can discuss practical issues such as carer stress and coping strategies and access to benefits. The programme involves up to six carers and clients. This pilot is thought to be the first of its kind in the North of England, and early evaluation shows it to be a valuable support to those who use it.

Dr David Colin-Thome was appointed National Director for Primary Care in May 2001, and continues to work part time as a GP. His visit to Dewsbury was part of a national tour of all Strategic Health Authority areas, and his stay in West Yorkshire also took him to Leeds to attend a workshop on older people’s services.

Trust Non-Executive Director Gary Dimmock accompanied Dr Colin-Thome on his visit and both were very impressed with the teams they met and the services they witnessed. After spending time chatting with staff and carers, Dr Colin-Thome said: ‘I am delighted to be in Dewsbury to hear from staff what is going on, the good practice they can share and also the problems and obstacles they face. ‘As a national director, part of my role is to develop, encourage and support staff delivering NHS services through this crucial period of change as we modernise health and social care services for older people."


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