Sutton expands dementia care service after improved quality of care and support for families and carers

Sutton’s specialist dementia nursing service has been expanded after it was found to improve care for people with dementia and provide increased support for carers.

A specialist dementia service - The Admiral Nurse Service - which is co-funded by Liberal Democrat-led Sutton Council and the NHS Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), has boosted the number of its specialist nurses from one to four. This has been achieved through significant additional funding by the NHS Sutton CCG.

Sutton is one of the only local authorities in England to host an Admiral Nurse Service team who support local families living with dementia.  First introduced in March 2014 it is operated as a partnership between Sutton Council, NHS Sutton CCG and Dementia UK, the national charity that develops and maintains Admiral Nursing.

Admiral Nurses play a unique role in care management by joining up the different parts of the health and social care system, so the needs of family carers and people with dementia can be addressed in a co-ordinated way.

Family carers in Sutton who used the service confirmed its positive impact on their lives.  A survey carried out by Dementia UK found that all 85 carers interviewed said the service had provided increased support in their caring role and had improved their quality of life.  The great majority said the service had reduced the amount of stress they were under due to their caring role.

Cllr Colin Stears, Lib Dem Chair of Sutton Council’s Adult Social Services and Health Committee, said: “The Admiral Nurse Service is doing a fantastic job here in Sutton, providing first-class support to carers and family members with dementia. That is why we are delighted to expand the service to four nurses so that more families across the borough can receive the support and assistance they need.”

Dr Chris Keers, a local GP and clinical lead for dementia services for NHS Sutton CCG, said: “We know that coping with dementia can be very challenging for the person with the disease and their families, friends and carers. Admiral Nurses provide practical and emotional support to patients and those who care for them in their day-to-day lives.

“This valuable support is helping to improve the lives of patients with dementia and their carers and we are delighted to be able to fund the expansion of the service in Sutton.”

One carer to benefit from the service looked after his mother for five years until her death last year aged 84.  As her condition declined, it became more difficult for him to care for her himself and he was put in touch with Amy Pepper, the Admiral Nurse for Sutton at that time.

He said: “Amy’s main concern was dealing with me as the carer to ensure that I was coping and looking after my health, and getting adequate breaks. She gave me tips on how to deal with Mum’s shouting, like stepping away into another room for five to 10 minutes. And, due to her specialised knowledge on dementia she was able to work with the assigned care agency to help them to better manage mum when aiding her with personal care, so it was less traumatic for mum and the agency care worker.

“Amy came to see me on a regular basis, attended meetings with social workers to support me and my daughter, and she helped me to increase mum’s care plan and package with Sutton Council when it became apparent that mum needed additional support and should move into a care home. Amy’s help was invaluable and I am indebted to her – not only did she give me great practical help and advice but she was a ‘go between’ between me and the social care worker.”

Amy Pepper, the Sutton Admiral Nurse involved , said: “The evaluation shows that carers feel supported and that this has improved their levels of stress and quality of life when caring for someone with dementia.

“In the next year we would like to see how we can increase the uptake of the service by male carers to ensure they are supported, as in the first 12 months 74 per cent of carers who were referred were women. 

Dr Karen Harrison Dening, Head of Research and Evaluations at Dementia UK, said: “Admiral Nurses work with the family to ensure that they are better able to understand and cope with the changes that can occur with dementia, so they can stay together as a family for as long as possible.”

The service in Sutton operates within the following referral criteria:

  • Referrals are accepted from any professional within health, social services or the voluntary sector who is working with the family living with dementia.
  • Referrals must identify a need that impacts on the person’s caring role or is a consequence of their caring role.
  • Finally, the carer’s identified needs cannot be met by other local services. This is important, as a key component of the Admiral Nursing Service is complementing existing services within the dementia pathway, working alongside them and picking up cases when needs become more complex. Whenever possible, Admiral Nurses work collaboratively with other services, to ensure there is seamless care for families along the entire dementia journey.

Dementia UK estimates that 2,102 people in Sutton (1.1 per cent of the population, based on the data of the 2011 census) live with dementia, although this figure is likely to be higher. 

Dementia UK offers specialist one-to-one support and expert advice for people living with dementia through our renowned Admiral Nurses. We work hand in hand with families, helping them cope with the fear, uncertainty and difficult everyday reality of dementia.

Each Admiral Nurse Service is operated as a partnership between Dementia UK and a host organisation. The majority of Admiral Nurses work within the NHS supporting people in the community. However, Admiral Nurses also work in other care settings such as: acute hospitals, care homes, end-of-life care, and in the community supported by voluntary organisations or home care services.

Dementia UK also provides a specialist dementia helpline – Admiral Nursing Direct – staffed by Admiral Nurses who offer advice and support to families, professionals and anyone worried about their memory. It is the only nurse-led dementia helpline in the country and is open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm, and on Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6pm to 9pm. Please call 0800 888 6678 or email direct@dementiauk.org

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