Navigation and Support for Dementia Patients and their Carers. The National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) Launches the Primary Care Navigator Independent Evaluation.

The National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) through its Innovation Programme has been supporting colleagues across the breadth of Primary Care to look beyond a pure medical interventions approach to addressing patient needs but to include a focus on wellbeing and proactive prevention. 

The expert consensus is that when it comes to dealing with the needs of patients and carers with signs of cognitive problems or a diagnosis of dementia, primary care providers often find themselves lacking confidence and knowledge about what information and practical support might be suitable or, indeed available, particularly at a local level.

Building on the successful Health Education England’s (HEE) progress on awareness raising, in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes for all those working in health and care, The National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) established the role of the Primary Care Navigator (PCN), providing e-learning, classroom training and mentoring for nominees from an initial group of 20 GP practices and 20 community pharmacies. The aim of this pilot was to learn how to support practices and pharmacies to increase synergies in addressing local health population priorities to find and use the resources available when dealing with dementia. Resources readily available for patients, carers and families.

By training front line non-clinical staff, who already deal with patients and carers on a day-to-day basis, to act as PCNs, and by providing up to date localised navigation tools, the PCN is empowering people to “pull” the integrated help and support they need from all sectors to encourage a more effective self-management approach.

Sally Kitt, NAPC COO said “The PCN does not ‘fix people’s problems’, or duplicate other roles that are already established, but they direct patients and carers to the wealth of support that is already out there in order to empower them stay out of crisis and increase wellbeing whatever their conditions.”

The programme ran from June 2014 to February 2015 with baseline and end of project measurements taken to assess the impact and uptake of the PCN role. Measureable positive impact was seen from raising awareness and understanding within the Primary Care setting as providers developed new connections and worked collaboratively. Patient feedback and experience improved as PCNs were able to listen and discover what their patients and carers really needed in terms of their own self-care, lifestyle and wellbeing.

A strong focus for this project was to understand the elements that would enable sustainability and scalability of such a role. The report highlights the learning gathered in terms of the barriers and enablers to making Primary Care Navigators an integral role in local service provision, not just from the perspective of an innovation project but from those doing and continuing the role as illustrated in the two mentioned case studies.

Dr Nav Chana, NAPC Chairman said “I commend this report in the light of the recent survey undertaken by the Alzheimer’s Society.  NAPC see the Primary Care Navigator role as central in not only assisting colleagues in General Practice and Primary Care and the demands they face but more importantly as part of the solution in giving the vital support needed for those with Dementia.”

What next? The NAPC have expanded the Primary Care Navigator role piloting a further project which will the skills of Health Champions in Lambeth to act as PCNs for diabetes. The NAPC are committed to the PCN role already proving its value in the area of dementia and diabetes with a vision to extend this role nationally across all long-term conditions.

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