This week a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit positioned the UK at the top of the worldwide pile for palliative care. The UK secured the same result in 2010 but against different criteria and covering more countries this time.
In May 2015 a report by the Royal College of Physicians heavily criticised inconsistencies and poor practice around those dying in hospital.
In September 2014 a report by the Nuffield Trust promoted what it saw as the compelling case for savings from reduced hospital care by more palliative nursing services.
Each of these reports has its own agenda, but one conclusion they share is that deploying well-trained specialist staff properly is an indicator of a sound care system, with better outcomes for everyone concerned.
This message resonates very well with what is clearly still missing in the world of dementia – an objective, large-scale improvement in the specialist dementia skills of staff in the health and care system.
It is of course difficult to measure improvement if no adequate base-line measures are taken first, using consistent standards. This has ever been then problem around professional staffing in the public sector. The talk is about numbers being trained not how skills are deployed.
This year at DSDC we have seen more evidence of “dementia” appearing on staff name badges. But we have also been shocked at how levels of knowledge and skills remain so inconsistent from place to place. This is not something which seems to be worrying people too much as the focus is elsewhere – on job titles and the need to demonstrate progress as part of the Dementia Challenge.
For some hospitals it seems those called dementia champion or even dementia specialist nurses will have undergone little more than the low-level basics on offer as training for dementia friends. In others the titles have been earned and carry real weight and value, in the way similar job titles around cancer care or palliative care have gained respect and meaning over time.
This situation disguises a lack of interest in what constitutes real expertise, where it is needed, how the need is met and what impact these roles are actually having on outcomes. This is surely the report we need - something that would give us all pause for thought.