Primary Health Care Research & Development


Dementia skills and competencies for primary care liaison: a model for improving identification and timely diagnosis

Kay de Vriesa1, Dawn J. Brookera2 c1 and Pauline Smitha3

a1 Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, UK & Senior Lecturer in Nursing, Victoria University, New Zealand

a2 Professor, Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK

a3 End of Life Care and Dementia Lead NHS West Midlands, NHS Midlands and East, UK


Objectives The need to improve the response of primary care in terms of identification of people with undiagnosed dementia has long been recognised. The role of Primary Care Liaison was identified as a possible solution. An in-depth consultation was undertaken to identify professional competencies required in executing such a role.

Methods Comprehensive literature and policy reviews were conducted to establish draft competencies or different options/combinations of competencies and competency levels. Consultations with a wide range of professional stakeholders (n = 23) and over 70 users and carers were conducted through focus groups, electronic document circulation and telephone interviews. An Equality Impact Assessment was conducted concurrent to the consultation.

Results The literature demonstrated a clear need both to improve the rate of diagnosis for people with dementia and to improve the way in which the diagnosis is made. The stakeholder consultation repeatedly affirmed that without a diagnosis the person with dementia and their caregivers did not get access to the appropriate services, and validated the need for a role that would be able to improve a system that would deliver an early and ‘timely’ diagnosis. Competencies, based on the literature and policy documents, were developed and debated through the consultation processes.

Conclusions Three main areas of competency were identified: counselling; screening; and health education and promotion. The competencies identified require a skilled experienced professional approach. A useful team model would be that the role is placed within a ‘GP cluster’ as accessibility to GP records and collaborative working with GPs is essential within the role. Personal continuing professional development has a high profile in maintaining these competencies.

(Received November 22 2011)

(Revised April 15 2012)

(Accepted April 23 2012)

(Online publication August 13 2012)

Key words

  • competencies;
  • dementia diagnosis;
  • primary care;
  • workforce


c1 Correspondence to: Professor Dawn Brooker, Association for Dementia Studies, St Johns Campus, University of Worcester, Worcester WR2 6AJ, UK. Email: