Scottish Government
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Care for older people is top priority

Improved care for older people will be a personal priority for Nicola Sturgeon in the new parliamentary term - with a specific focus on dementia.

Ms Sturgeon announced that Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) and the Scottish Government's Chief Nursing Officer will have key roles to play to ensure high standards of care for older people are maintained.

In a keynote speech to the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Awareness Week Conference the Health Secretary spoke of her determination to deliver increasingly high quality and compassionate care services to ensure older people are always treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Her comments came as the Scottish Government published two major documents as part of Scotland's first ever National Dementia Strategy.

Standards of Care for Dementia have been unveiled to help people with dementia, their families and carers understand and assert their rights. They state that people with dementia should be treated with respect, their physical care environment should be personalised and their specific needs and preferences recognised and factored into their care package. The standards will be tested before being formally adopted.

Also published today is a dementia skills framework - Promoting Excellence - which will help ensure the standards are met by ensuring staff have the best professional qualifications, enhancing workforce capability and developing leadership within the dementia workforce.

Ms Sturgeon, who is now directly responsible for older people's care - a role that previously rested with the Minister for Public Health - pledged:

  • The Chief Nursing Officer, reporting to her, would oversee the implementation of the dementia standards in hospital settings and lead a programme of work to give assurance that care for older people in these settings, whether or not they have dementia, meets the highest standards of care and compassion.
  • Health Improvement Scotland would carry out a programme of inspections to ensure that hospitals are living up to the Care for Older People in Acute Settings standards first published in 2002.

Ms Sturgeon said:

"Quality, compassionate care for older people that protects their dignity and independence, is one of the most sacred duties of any civilised society. It is something I believe we generally do well - but that is not good enough. We must do it well for every older person on every occasion, in care homes and in hospitals.

"I consider improving care for older people - whether that means ensuring the implementation of the dementia standards, making sure older people are treated with care and compassion wherever they are and whatever their diagnosis, or better joining up health and social care - to be a personal priority.

"In implementing the standards we are committed to listening to views of people with dementia and their carers to test implementation against their experience, as well working with the scrutiny and improvement organisations, particularly SCSWIS with their focus on social care, and the Mental Welfare Commission to ensure effective implementation.

"Further, in view of the particular challenges in respect of the care of older people in hospital I have asked the Chief Nursing Officer to oversee the implementation of the dementia standards in hospital settings and to lead a programme of work to give assurance that care for older people in these settings, whether or not they have dementia, is meeting the highest standards of care and compassion.

"That is why, having taken direct responsibility for older people's services, I have asked the Chief Nursing Officer to oversee the implementation of the dementia standards in hospital settings and ensure that we are meeting the highest standards of care and compassion. And it is why I have asked Health Improvement Scotland to carry out a programme of inspections to ensure hospitals are living up to the Care for Older People in Acute Settings standards.

"On the first anniversary of Scotland's National Dementia Strategy I am delighted that we are today able to publish Standards of Care for Dementia and a skills framework for staff. Around 82,000 people in Scotland have dementia and we expect that to double over the next 25 years. These documents will help people affected by dementia assert their rights to ensure they are never denied their dignity in care. In implementing the standards we are committed to listening to views of people with dementia and their carers to test implementation against their experience, as well working with the scrutiny and improvement organisations, particularly SCSWIS with their focus on social care, and the Mental Welfare Commission to ensure effective implementation.

"Reshaping care for older people is a huge challenge but it is one we must rise to tackle head on. Our 70 million pound Change Fund is a crucial part of that effort but we will not rest on our laurels. We will sustain the profile of this issue throughout the term of parliament, as we all have a responsibility to ensure we deliver on our shared commitment to see real improvements in the care people experience right now - and in the future."

Commenting on the publication of new dementia care standards and the knowledge and skills framework, Henry Simmons, Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland, said:

"The Scottish Government, and all the partner agencies involved in developing the new dementia care standards and the knowledge and skills framework, have created an excellent platform on which to start the second year of the National Dementia Strategy.

"These initiatives have the potential to greatly improve the way in which professionals and service providers across the health and social care spectrum understand and treat people with dementia and their families. We must now ensure that this translates into practice and that we start to see immediate improvements in the quality of life for people with dementia and their families, particularly in our acute general hospitals, community and residential care services.

"We must ensure that all local authorities and NHS boards take their lead from the strategy, and not only protect but invest in quality services for the 82,000 people with dementia in Scotland who so desperately need support."

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