Professor Alistair Burns Visits Tower Hamlets

On 29 July, Professor Alistair Burns, National Clinical Director for Dementia at NHS England and Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at the University of Manchester, paid a visit to dementia services in Tower Hamlets. Professor Burns had visited previously to formally open Columbia Ward, East London NHS Foundation Trust’s centralised dementia assessment unit, back in 2012.

He was interested to hear how services have developed since then and the Tower Hamlets Dementia Partnership were more than happy to tell him! Professor Burns enjoyed his visit. He said:

“It was really striking to see the passion for collaboration and the ‘can-do’ attitude in the room. A key part of the success of the developments in Tower Hamlets has been the adoption of a joint strategy that everyone has signed up for. The success is palpable and is serving the needs of people with dementia and their carers fantastically well.”

Dr Judith Littlejohn, GP and Mental Health Lead for Tower Hamlets CCG talked about how partnership working had really improved the experience for patients. CCG Commissioner Richard Fradgley reviewed statistics and benchmarking across England which showed that Tower Hamlets is in the top three for diagnosis of dementia, a big change from two years ago when Tower Hamlets was second from the bottom of the table.

Team Leader Corinne Drummond, talked about what made the Tower Hamlets service different. She talked about Awareness Raising sessions held in the East London Mosque for Imams in the borough who were very receptive to the information and vowed to cascade it down. Bill Gibbons for the Alzheimer’s Society spoke about the benefits of being co-located with the dementia team. He said he couldn’t emphasise enough what a difference it made and meant that families had support from the very beginning, from the outreach stage through to diagnosis and aftercare. He also spoke about the Bangladeshi Café is highly popular with families for support from other families in their community and for advice and guidance.

Julie Dublin, Transformation Manager with the CCG, spoke about the integrated care model being developed across Waltham Forest, East London and the City (WELC). She said this would enable better care co-ordination and ensure that people received the right care in the right place at the right time. And it would also support individuals in managing their own health needs with the right support and the right tools.

LBTH Service Lead Deborah Cohen said that there was a real will to make it work from all the organisations involved and integrating NHS care with social care had been key in that. A specialist worker has been appointed to undertake training in care homes to equip care home staff with the skills to look after people with dementia.

Professor Burns thanked everyone for taking the time to talk about what was happening in the borough and for sharing their thinking. He found 15 minutes to pop up to Columbia Ward for a quick visit to see how they were all doing.

Photograph: Professor Burns (far left with the Tower Hamlets Dementia Partnership)