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Better Staff Levels And Training For Dementia Care

Better staff levels, improved training opportunities, and a new working group to monitor dementia services will help address concerns about the quality of these services for older people, Associate Health Minister Ruth Dyson said today.

"Older people in dementia units are very vulnerable, and it is essential they receive the best possible care and support," Ms Dyson said.

Most service providers were doing an excellent job, she said. However, advice from the Ministry of Health confirmed that during the last year, eight of the 98 providers of specialist dementia services had been specially audited because of concerns relating to quality of care. Seven of these audits had been commissioned in the Southern region.

Concerns included:
- lack of provider commitment to staff training in specialised dementia care;
- apparent lack of provider awareness of training opportunities in dementia care;
- lack of family participation in the planning and provision of residents' care;
- lack of appropriate response from rest homes to complaints by family members;
- lack of adherence to appropriate medication protocols and procedures.

Ruth Dyson said stricter service specifications relating to staffing levels and training were ready to be introduced into new contracts for residential aged care services.

"At the moment, regional differences in service agreements mean that some providers are required to have staff on duty in dementia units 24 hours a day, while others are merely required to employ staff 'to meet the health and care needs of all residents'.

"The new agreements will ensure national consistency and specify that a staff member must be on duty in every dementia unit for 24 hours a day."

Ms Dyson said the new service specifications would also tighten up training requirements.

"The Ministry of Health is currently negotiating with the Community Support Services Industry Training Organisation to ensure that unit standards training around dementia care will be available to all providers in the aged-care residential sector.

"We are confident that we can come up with a cost-effective, on-the-job training package, linked to the National Qualifications framework, which will greatly improve the quality of care of older people."

Ruth Dyson said she intended setting up a working group as soon as possible to look at ways dementia services overall can be improved. It would be made up of service providers, health professionals and representatives from the aged care sector.

"Two things I will be asking the group to address are improving the access and effectiveness of our complaints procedures, and developing specific dementia care standards.

"We need mandatory service standards for dementia care to ensure quality and consistency of care throughout the country."

Ms Dyson also acknowledged ongoing concerns about complaints procedures.

"Families do not always know who to complain to, or how. They are also scared about the possible impact on their relative if they do complain."

"Better staff levels and improved training opportunities, combined with addressing these two issues of service standards and a robust complaints procedure, will enable all New Zealanders to have confidence in the quality of care in dementia units," Ruth Dyson said.


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