Living well with dementia

A joint partnership between NHS Lanarkshire’s Community Mental Health Team for older people (CMHT/OP) and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, showcased as a Practice Exemplar on the Hub,  has been recognised at the National Awards 2019 for Excellence in Mental Health Nursing.

The “Living Well with Dementia” project won the Community Mental Health category at the award ceremony, which was held in November.

The awards recognise the significant contribution that nurses make to mental health services across Scotland, increasingly in the context of the integration of health and social care.

Hazel Boyle (Practice Improvement Nurse) said: “The project began when the fire service in Motherwell requested written advice from us which would be given to the officers who provide home fire safety checks. This was followed up by the team providing training sessions for fire officers at Motherwell Station.”

Discussions between SFRS and CMHT/OP highlighted a need for better communications between services to help ensure that they were aware of the signs which may indicate risk for people living with dementia. When officers have concerns, they are now able to directly discuss or refer the individual to memory nursing staff. This allows staff to check if the person is known to the service, and if so, to assess if a review of the person’s care is required.

“Following training the service is much more streamlined. We can now share information where appropriate and fire officers have the confidence and awareness about what signs and vulnerabilities to look for.”

Following the initial success of the initiative, SFRS now have a care lead person in each of the five localities in Lanarkshire which has helped to embed standard practice. There has also been an increase of 63% home safety checks in the area.

Of course, the main benefit is that risks are reduced in the home and the person can stay at home for longer, while providing reassurance to their families.

The project is now being rolled out across Lanarkshire and Hazel has also been approach by Police Scotland locally who are interested how they might implement the approach.

Brian Byrne (SFRS Station Commander, Prevention and Protection North Lanarkshire) said: “The SFRS are continually looking for ways to establish and develop partnerships and partnership working, in a bid to reduce unintentional harm, and improve the safety and quality of life for communities across Scotland. Working with Hazel and her team was one such opportunity, which has allowed us to increase our knowledge of dementia, be able to identify its signs and risks, and understand the impact it can have on someone living with dementia. It also enabled us to establish referral pathways where it has been identified that someone living with dementia would benefit from a Home Fire Safety Visit and allows SFRS officers the opportunity to refer persons of concern for a memory service assessment.”

Hazel concludes: “I would say the most important lessons we have learned is that we can’t do these things in isolation. We have been very fortunate having the support from managers both within our service and SFRS. There is a genuine shared passion for the initiative among partners, and we couldn’t have done it without them.”

Pictured above (left to right): Paul Mathieson (Local Authority Liaison Officer, North Lanarkshire); Collette Walker (Admin officer Motherwell CMHT/OP) Suzanne Gillespie (Staff nurse Motherwell CMHT/OP): Hazel Boyle (Practice Improvement Nurse); Tracy Coyle (Interim Associate Director of Nursing, Mental Health & Learning disabilities NHS Lanarkshire) Brian Byrne (Station Commander – Prevention and Protection, North Lanarkshire).