Published on 18 October 2022
The impact of a NHS Admiral nurse service supporting families affected by dementia will be measured by University of Sunderland researchers.
Admiral nurses provide clinical, emotional, and practical support to help families live more positively with dementia.
A team of three specialist nurses were introduced to South Tyneside this week, and will offer practical advice and support for people living with dementia and their families. The team, based in Imeary Street, South Shields, were welcomed at a launch event hosted by community group Hebburn Living Well with Dementia.
Dr Heather Yemm, Research Fellow at the University of Sunderland’s Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute, has been commissioned to run an evaluation of the pilot scheme over the next three years. In partnership with the service, hosted by South Tyneside Health Collaborative, with support from Dementia UK and the North East and North Cumbria ICB, Dr Yemm will assess the strength, impact and effectiveness of the Admiral Nurse service.
She said: “Having the opportunity to evaluate the Admiral Nurse service will allow us to understand the impact of Admiral Nurses not only on the families they support, but also on the wider dementia care system in South Tyneside. The findings from this evaluation will inform future service development to ensure that the needs of families living with dementia in South Tyneside are met and that residents are able to access excellent and timely support.”
Dr Jim Gordon, a local GP and mental health lead for the NHS's North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), said: "Getting a dementia diagnosis can be a huge shock to patients and their families, who often struggle to accept what is happening and the difficulties it brings.
"This small team can make a big impact, not just for patients but for carers who can become isolated and highly stressed. Admiral Nurses make a real difference, offering advice and linking families up with respite care and other services."
More than 944,000 people are living with dementia in the UK – and this number is set to increase to 1.1m by 2030.
Bob Cochrane, Regional Account Manager at Dementia UK, said: “The last few years have placed increasing pressure on local services that support families with dementia. This has left many struggling to cope with no one to turn to for support.
"There’s no cure for dementia, but there is care. Admiral Nurses help people stay independent for longer and help their carers have the strength to cope with bad days and the energy to enjoy good days."
Harton resident Richard Bainbridge, 80, and his wife Geraldine, 79, have been married for almost 60 years. Three years ago Geraldine, a well-known figure locally as Chair of South Shields Amateur Operatic Society, was diagnosed with dementia – and their lives changed overnight.
Richard said: "We knew something was wrong, but it took time to pluck up the courage to ask for a diagnosis. I was confident we could cope, but this proved not to be the case at all.
"Our old life was gone, and as the dementia worsened, the isolation got worse too. I wasn't aware of many services, even as an ex-social worker – everything had changed since I retired, and I desperately needed a break.
"The Admiral Nurse team arranged respite sessions twice a week for Geraldine. She was one of the first to get a place, and it's been very positive.
"Geraldine can't tell me if she enjoys the sessions but they seem to be a pleasant experience. The first time I just came home and slept. Sometimes I come home and rest quietly, other times I pop to the shops or go for a walk along the river in Durham.
"People cope because they have to. It's not easy to access support but the Admiral Nurses seem to be able to cut a route through all that. I'm glad the advice and support is there for people in the future."
The Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Pat Hay, said: “It was wonderful to see the range of help already available for people living with dementia and for their carers and families and to learn more about this additional service.
“The specialist practical and emotional support provided by the new Admiral Nurses will make a huge difference to local families affected by dementia, making sure they get the support they need during the most difficult and challenging of times.”
Families in South Tyneside affected by dementia can speak with their GP who can refer them to the Admiral Nurse service.