OVERTON Surgery has become the first dementia-friendly GP practice in Hampshire.

The new service was opened by Doctor Alistair Burns, the NHS national clinical director for dementia in England.

Dr Burns performed a short ceremony to launch the service, attended by patients, carers and representatives from groups including the Alzheimer’s Society, Health Education Wessex, Hampshire County Council and the North Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group.

Wessex Academic Health Science Network (ASHN) funded the project for patients with dementia and their carers, through its Wealth Accelerator Fund.

Dr Nicola Decker, a GP at Overton Surgery and dementia lead for the North Hampshire Clinical Commis-sioning Group, worked to make the surgery suitable for people with dementia.

This included educating staff, sending out appointment reminders for patients, introducing double length appointments and improving the signage. Dr Decker was helped by people suffering from dementia and their carers, who were closely involved in the project.

Katherine Barber, senior project manager for Wessex ASHN, said: “The first thing was to set up the staff training for all the staff in the surgery and then we contacted all the patients and carers and asked them what their views were on making a good service for them.

“That provided a lot of useful feedback about things that needed to be done. Dr Decker went through all the records and made sure it was properly recorded all the people with dementia. So if someone opens them they can see that person has dementia and give them double length appointments so they have time to express their issues.

“They will also ring them up on the morning of their appointment to remind them they have an appointment that day.”

The surgery improvements are linked to the Alzheimer’s Society’s campaign to create dementia-friendly communities.

Around 800,000 people in the UK are affected by dementia, and this is set to rise to around one million by 2021, because of increased lifespans.

NHS England is prioritising equitable access to high quality services and support for people diagnosed with dementia, and GPs are now encouraged to ask the right questions to identify patients with the disease.

It is hoped that the dementia-friendly GP surgery idea will be rolled out to other GP practices in the Wessex region.

Dr Decker has produced a guide to show how to make the necessary changes, and Wessex AHSN will be on hand to support this work.

She said: “This was a team effort to provide compassionate care for our patients with dementia and although not proven, I believe it is the right thing to do. The feedback from patients is already very positive.”