Champions help improve support for people with dementia in Barnet

Altogether Better’s model of ‘community centred practice’ creates the conditions for collaboration between those working in health services and people from local communities, creating a fresh new space where change can happen and lives and services can be transformed. The work begins when the practice invites local people to gift their time as health champions, working alongside health professionals to reshape services.

John Gumpright is one of the champions at Millway Medical Practice in Barnet. There are currently 18 people involved with the practice as champions. Having an extra pair of hands can help busy clinics run smoothly and help keep waiting times at reception to a minimum. John says, “People are sometimes quite scared of the self check-in screens, or they make a mistake and panic. We can take them through the procedure, show them what to do and that takes the pressure off reception. It’s a simple thing, but it makes people feel comfortable coming to the surgery. They know what to do next time.”

Aside from assisting with the smooth running of the practice, the champions are supporting patients in other ways. John says, “We’re setting up a group for carers of people with learning disabilities and we’re also talking about setting up other groups, for example for cancer, so people can meet and talk about their experiences. There’s a diabetes group in the pipeline and we have a doctor who is going to be involved in that. I feel we’ve achieved a lot helping in the clinics and now we’re starting to get others things moving too.” 

Millway Medical Practice has been thinking carefully about how it can support people in its care who have a dementia diagnosis, or who are supporting someone with dementia, and is investing in dementia training for its GPs. There is a dementia advisor available at the practice and the champions are working with the advisor to host a monthly ‘dementia friends’ session, open to people with dementia and carers. The champions recently had a dementia awareness training session.

John says, “I have had some experience with dementia, because unfortunately my mother had it at the end of her life. There were lighter times and there were times that it was quite harrowing. The dementia training session we had was very interesting. It opened my mind and I really didn’t realise a lot of things about dementia – in how it affects the person and everybody around them. I really learned a lot and it was very enlightening.”

The development of dementia support is just one example of how the practice and the champions can work together to make lives better for people in Barnet. The champions are a part of the practice family and feel supported by the practice manager and the GPs.

John says, “We are very involved in the practice and the GPs can see what we’re doing and are very much in favour of the work we do. The practice manager attends our meetings and is very supportive. Personally, being a part of this work, I feel I’m being useful. All of the champions are doing a great job and everyone is involved in one way or another. I’m getting satisfaction from being part of it.”

Supported by the London Borough of Barnet and the Joint Public Health Service for Barnet and Harrow, Altogether Better worked with 7 practices across the district to introduce this model of community centred practice, building on work with over 100 around the country.