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Better support for people with possible dementia

Posted on 10th December, 2013

More than 100 people attended the official launch of the county’s new Memory Assessment Clinics, which operate at the acute general hospitals in Torbay, Exeter and Barnstaple.

The audience included people with lived experience of dementia and their families and carers, GPs, representatives from voluntary organisations, professionals from a range of health and social care disciplines and Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw. 

General Manager for Older People’s Mental Health Services in Torbay, Chris Whitehead, chaired the event.  He said:  “Giving someone a diagnosis of dementia can be extremely traumatic for them, and their loved ones.  We need to make sure that everything we do before and after giving a diagnosis is done sensitively, supportively and in a joined-up way. 

“We have had pockets of excellence all over Devon in many areas of older people’s care for a long time and we have some incredibly committed and hard working staff.  Initiatives like the partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society to provide Dementia Advisors have made a real difference to people’s lives.  However, until now we have failed to deliver a fair and coherent system for diagnosing dementia.  We are confident that Memory Assessment Clinics are a major step forward in achieving this goal, and they have already received an award for innovation from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.”

Dr Colm Owens, Clinical Director for Older people’s Mental Health Services at Devon Partnership Trust, said:  “The launch was truly inspirational and very uplifting.  We were delighted that so many people with a passionate interest in dementia were able to join us.  It is estimated that more than more than 9,000 people in Devon are living with a dementia that has not been diagnosed and Memory Assessment Clinics will help us to address this issue.

“The clinics are a joint initiative between our organisation, which provides specialist mental health services, and our colleagues based in the county's main acute hospitals.   The clinics provide a head CT scan where it is necessary and a comprehensive assessment, by a multi-disciplinary team, under one roof and in a single appointment.  They also mark the start of the process to provide follow-up information, care and treatment, where it is required.” Among other presentations, Dr Rick Mejzner (a Budleigh Salterton GP) talked about supporting patients with dementia from a family doctor’s perspective and Dr Anthony Hemsley (Clinical Lead for Older People’s Healthcare at RD&E) and Georgie Boult (Senior Mental Health Practitioner with Devon Partnership NHS Trust) explained how the new clinics actually work, from the point of referral onwards.  Ben Bradshaw MP talked about how dementia has touched his family and the event concluded with a poignant and touching presentation by Terry Bannon, from Torbay, whose wife is in her fifties and has recently been diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy – a form of dementia.  More information about Memory Assessment Clinics is available by clicking here.  and on the Trust’s website at