By Gareth Hammond, Service Manager

At the onset of the pandemic, it became clear the focus of care and support was shifting to one of risk mitigation, underpinned by clinical outcomes based on a medical model of delivery. Decisions were taken to keep people safe, and rightly so. However, isolation now became the norm for many people.

As I have worked in social care for most of my career, from care assistant to dementia specialist nurse before joining the Care Inspectorate, I was acutely aware that what was happening across the sector could compromise outcomes for people living with dementia.

At around the same time, I was tasked with co-chairing the Care Inspectorate’s Dementia Practice Development Group. I saw this as an opportunity to look more closely at what was happening, and where we, as the regulator, could have influence to help enhance people’s lives. Having worked strategically in the dementia care arena for a number of years, re-establishing relationships with partner organisations was straightforward, and very much required.

To help understand what was happening in the sector, a specialist community of practice on dementia was convened. This included people from NHS Education Scotland (NES), Alzheimer’s Scotland, University of the West of Scotland and providers. Developing this group was of vital importance, as it allowed us to coordinate working, reduce duplication and the burden placed on services, as well as helping to ensure the voices of people living with dementia and their families were heard. From working with this group, our Dementia care during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic guidance was developed and published. This helped to bring together key pieces of information from across the sector as well as support a human rights approach for people living with dementia.

To help provide examples on how services could support people living with dementia in a more person-centred way, particularly where restrictions remained in place, we developed the Enriched model of psychological needs poster. This sets out to underline the key components of positive person work on attachment, comfort, identity, occupation and inclusion. Running in conjunction with this, I supported NES to develop bite-size training sessions which linked to the Promoting Excellence in dementia care framework specific to the pandemic – with the most notable input being into Module 4 (Proactive approaches to prevent distress and promote psychological wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic), which is available sector-wide via the TURAS learning site.

The community of practice has continued to meet and discuss issues, with a specific focus on supporting updates of training materials, and how these can have the greatest influence by ensuring staff have the right skills and knowledge to support people living with dementia and their families.

Most recently, I have been working with colleagues in NES to support the development of Dementia Ambassador training, which will consist of seven training modules that will set out expectations of the role. This will be piloted within care home and care at home services before a sector-wide roll out is planned.

As we learn to live with Covid-19, we must continue to ensure that these mitigations do not compromise outcomes for people living with dementia.