University of the West of Scotland’s pioneering work to improve the lives of those living with dementia has been further strengthened – as it is named the official provider of the award-winning Scotland's National Dementia Champions programme.

Announced as part of Dementia Awareness Week, UWS’s ground-breaking Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice (ASCPP) – a partnership with Alzheimer Scotland – has been awarded a new contract by NHS Education for Scotland to teach the next cohort of Dementia Champions, who will lead and sustain frontline developments in dementia care.

A Dementia Champion is a health and social care professional who has completed an intensive programme, teaching participants to see, hear and feel the experiences of people living with dementia through working closely with them, their carers and their families. Since 2011, ASCPP has prepared 1,000 Dementia Champions, who have gone on to have a lasting impact on the lives of those with dementia. 

Following the new contract announcement, it is anticipated that the Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice at UWS will, this year, educate a further 150 NHS and social services staff. They will be taught via a curriculum of high-quality digital learning, which not only reflects the refreshed Promoting Excellence Framework 2021, but embodies dynamic, accessible teaching, recognising the impact of the pandemic on dementia practice.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, people living with dementia have accounted for 25 per cent of all Covid-19 deaths globally. This new programme will bring into sharp focus what it is like to live through a pandemic with dementia, preparing new Dementia Champions with the knowledge and skills they need to care for patients in hospital in the current Covid-19 environment. 

Dr Anna Jack-Waugh, Senior Lecturer at UWS’s Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice, said: “The Dementia Champions Faculty at the Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice is delighted to be commissioned to design, deliver and evaluate Scotland's National Dementia Champions programme for 2021. 

“Focussed on supporting the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 recovery, the faculty will facilitate the education of health and social care professionals to be change agents in their area of practice. People with dementia and their families, Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Nurse Consultants and expert digital technologists will support the development of this programme – which will include all the features of the previous award-winning programme – for exciting digital delivery.”

Once they have completed the programme, students will be equipped to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes of being a Dementia Champion at an enhanced level. They will understand the complexities in dementia care, and apply evidence-based and ethical best practice to improve the physical and mental health care for people living with dementia. Graduates will be equipped to lead and sustain frontline improvements in dementia care within our hospitals and local services.

Ian Campbell, Scottish Dementia Working Group member, who is living with dementia, said: "As a national campaigning group for people with a diagnosis of dementia in Scotland, the Scottish Dementia Working Group fully endorse this unique programme which promotes the delivery of the best quality care and support for people with dementia and their families. 

“As a person living with dementia and a member of the Group, it is truly inspiring to know that the programme will continue and go on to produce our future Dementia Champions. This programme is close to my heart as I have had a few difficult experiences in hospital and the Dementia Champions have supported me through this. As a group we look forward to working with the next cohort of champions and sharing with them our lived experiences as people with dementia.”

Henry Simmons, Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland, said: “Alzheimer Scotland has been associated with the Dementia Champions programme since its earliest days, and we are delighted UWS ASCPP have been awarded this new contract. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the dementia community; we welcome the development of this award-winning programme to encompass a particular emphasis on the lived experience of people with dementia during this crisis. We are also delighted to see the programme developed for digital delivery, and my very best wishes to the new cohort of future Dementia Champions.”