More people in east Suffolk will receive a quick diagnosis and vital treatment for memory problems thanks to a new-look specialist service launched today (1 November) by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT).
The revamped community memory assessment service (CMAS) will see a team of senior practitioners assess people in Ipswich and east Suffolk who are having trouble with their memory.
Patients who have been referred by their GP will be given a pre-screening check to rule out any physical causes or delirium before they are referred to the service. A senior practitioner will then carry out an initial assessment before a multidisciplinary team of nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists, support workers and a consultant psychiatrist will meet to formulate a diagnosis.
All diagnoses will be signed off by the consultant psychiatrist, who will also be able to carry out additional, more specialist assessments in the most complex cases.
The new-look service will see up to 1,400 patients ever year compared to around 1,200 previously, and aims to increase diagnosis rates so that patients can begin treatment more quickly while also benefiting from earlier access to post-diagnostic support.
It has been made possible thanks to an investment of £580,000 from NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which will fund the service for the next three years.
Simon Leach, Locality Manager with NSFT, said: “We are pleased to launch this new-look service, which will allow us to see more patients each year and offer support more quickly where a diagnosis is confirmed.
“Our aim is to diagnose all patients within 12 weeks of their referral. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, we may be able to offer medication to the patient and follow up appointments to review their treatment. We are also developing therapies as an alternative where medication is not prescribed, and every patient will receive a home visit by one of our support workers post diagnosis to ensure their holistic needs are identified.
“We will then be able to signpost them to sources of further support, such as the Sue Ryder Dementia Together Service and other third sector organisations.
“A lot of people coming into the service are really anxious, so we do our best to offer them as much reassurance and support as we can. Memory problems can be caused by a range of different things, such as depression, anxiety, medication or pain, so it’s important to remember that a referral to the CMAS doesn’t always mean the patient has dementia.
“Even if a diagnosis of dementia is confirmed, picking it up early means we can provide the support, guidance and information which people need to help them retain their independence and live well with dementia.”
Dr Mark Shenton, a GP in Stowmarket and chairman of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG, said: “The timely diagnosis of dementia is important both for the patient and their family and it is pleasing we are able to commit additional resources to further improve the service.
“One of the priorities of the CCG is to increase rates of dementia diagnosis and the level of support to patients and their families after diagnosis.
“Anyone who is worried about their memory should make an appointment with their GP practice for an initial test and they will be referred if there are any concerns.”
Assessments will be available at NSFT bases across Ipswich and east Suffolk, as well as in GP surgeries and community settings, to make them as easy as possible to access.
Following treatment and review, patients will continue to be cared for by their GP, but will be referred back to NSFT if they develop problems managing their condition.
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