Dementia care given priority in new NHS training guidelines

Department of Health training blueprint promises to give NHS education unprecedented focus and importance

Andrew Sparrow
The Guardian, Tuesday 28 May 2013

Tackling dementia and encouraging medical students to become GPs are among the priorities under a new framework for NHS training.

At least half the number of medical students must go on to become GPs, and much more should be done to increase awareness of dementia, an NHS training blueprint will announce today.

Getting more nurses to train in the community is also a priority under a new framework for NHS training.

The plan will determine how Health Education England, which took responsibility for NHS training in England this year from the recently abolished strategic health authorities, spends £5bn a year educating and developing NHS staff.

The 37-page “mandate” from the Department of Health, which will cover the next two years, will give NHS training and education “unprecedented focus and importance”, according to the department.

One priority is to increase the number of staff with special dementia training. The document says that 100,000 staff should receive foundation-level dementia training by March 2014, and that plans for a further rollout of training should be in place by the autumn of this year. The goal is for all NHS staff who deal with dementia patients to have training at this level.

“Dementia is the illness most feared by people in England over the age of 55, yet in the past it has not received the attention it needs,” says the document, which acknowledges that David Cameron declared this a priority last year when he said that he wanted dementia care in England to be among the best in Europe.

The department’s training blueprint calls for “progress” towards the target of ensuring that 50% of medical students go on to become GPs, who have been complaining about a shortage of doctors entering their wing of the profession, as a British Medical Association conference heard last week. And the mandate also says that more nurses should train in the community. The goal is to ensure that at least 50% of nurses do community placements by March 2015.

Other proposals include setting minimum training standards for healthcare assistants by spring 2014 and developing a plan to enable them to go on to enter nursing, the development of postgraduate training courses for nurses working with older people with complex needs, more training for GPs in mental health and children’s health, and more apprenticeships in the NHS for healthcare staff.

Health Education England is also being told to develop a long-term workforce plan. This includes tackling the “historic shortages in doctors working in emergency medicine”, and a taskforce is expected to produce recommendations by this summer.

Professor Ian Cummings, chief executive of Health Education England, said: “Our mandate from the government sets out clearly the plans for education and training that will be the cornerstone for the delivery of high quality, effective compassionate care.”

In an introduction to the document, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, and Dr Dan Poulter, the health minister, said the events at Mid Staffordshire foundation trust showed the need to recruit NHS staff with the right values.

They added: “Investment in our NHS workforce will need to reflect the changing needs of patients, carers and the local community, with healthcare and public health providers taking greater responsibility and accountability for the training, skills and competencies of the workforce they employ.”