Time to catch up: dementia, medical education and 21st-century healthcare

Dr Ellen Tullo is a Teaching and Research Fellow at the Biomedical Research Centre in Ageing at the University of Newcastle, UK.  Her particular area of interest is in how we teach about dementia in order to improve outcomes for patients.

In centuries past, medical students in the UK studied rheumatic fever, smallpox and syphilis as a reflection of the needs of the community that they served. However medical advances and demographic change mean that health and social care professionals now face new challenges and opportunities.  Many of these are related to ageing and the need to provide the best possible care to an increasing number of increasingly complex frail older patients. In this context, dementia is an area of current – and growing – importance.

Over the last decade, multiple national audits, reports and policy statements highlighted concerns about the care afforded to people with dementia in both primary and secondary care.  The recurrent message from these documents was that education and training about dementia for health and social care professionals must improve.

Moreover, just in the last few weeks , the government’s response to the Francis report reiterated the importance of the issue by affirming their commitment to improving dementia-related training for professionals. So the past decade of auditing, reporting and policy stating does not seem to have prompted the necessary change.

How should we take things forward?

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