DAA guest blog with Veronica Hawking

In our latest guest blog, Veronica Hawking from the Alzheimer’s Society, a key leader in the Dementia United (DU) development team, shares her review of the recent national Dementia Action Alliance (DAA) meeting at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust at which DU was asked to present and participate.

Veronica HawkingSince last August I have been working, on behalf of Alzheimer’s Society, with the team at Haelo on the development of Dementia United, the Greater Manchester wide dementia devolution transformation programme.

At times over the last year, as I make the tram journey to SRFT, it has felt like Salford Royal and the Haelo offices have become my second home! So it was excellent to welcome people from around the country who are passionate about improving the lives of those affected by dementia to the hospital in June, for the quarterly national Dementia Action Alliance meeting.

The Dementia Action Alliance (DAA) brings together organisations across England committed to transforming the lives of people with dementia and their carers, working towards bringing about a society-wide response to dementia.  They had chosen Salford as the location for this key meeting because of the potential impact that devolution, and specifically programmes like Dementia United, has to transform the lives of people living with dementia.

Attendees at the DAA meeting ranged from people with dementia, to academics, local government and healthcare leaders and professionals, voluntary sector organisations, clinicians, businesses and representatives from local Dementia Action Alliances – including of course one of the most active DAAs in the country – Salford DAA. Throughout the day there was no shortage of discussion and debate about what devolution meant and whether the opportunities outweighed the risks. Participants asked ‘is devolution effectively devolving cuts’? By signing up to this, ‘are we carving up the NHS’?

Overwhelmingly though, the sense was that this is an opportunity we must grasp with both hands and truly make the most of. Sentiments we at Alzheimer’s Society share. We believe that the impact of this work can go way beyond Greater Manchester. The eyes of decision makers, and health and social care leaders from across the country are on Greater Manchester to see how devolution plays out. Through showing them how Dementia United can transform the lives of people with dementia here, we have the opportunity to create a blueprint for dementia care that could be replicated the length and breadth of the country as further devolution deals are agreed.

By bringing together and engaging and social care commissioners, providers, wider public services, businesses, Academic/research organisations, voluntary sector groups and most importantly people with dementia and carers themselves, Dementia United is a chance to improve health and care systems in a way that has never been done before. Through the opportunity for local decision making and working innovatively alongside some of Greater Manchester’s greatest assets – from Media City to the academic community of Oxford Road – we have a chance to revolutionise the experiences of people affected by dementia.

Key messages

Listening to attendees on the day, there are some clear messages to take away.

Firstly, in order to succeed, it is vital that programmes such as Dementia United extend beyond the health and social care system, and into every area of people’s lives – from transport, to culture and sport – to truly make Greater Manchester the best place in the world for people with dementia to live.

Secondly, and the strongest, most important message of the day was this: No decision about us without us. The views of people affected by dementia and carers must be at the heart of any transformation work, and they must be at the table from the start, shaping the plans. This is a vital time to ensure that the voices of people affected by dementia and carers are heard loudly, as the groundbreaking new opportunities that devolution and Dementia United have the potential to bring come to life.

The DAA had ‘five minutes with Sir David Dalton‘, you can read the interview now on their website.

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