Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

Awareness weeks are like buses — you wait a while and then three come along at once! Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week and this week we have Dementia Awareness Week and Dying Matters Awareness Week. All really important topics for those of us interested in adult social care and the improvement of services to meet people’s needs.

I wrote last week about mental health so I won’t cover that now — save for this footnote. One of my recommendations was Simon Jack’s brave Panorama documentary about suicide and on Wednesday I had the chance to meet him personally and say thank you. It made my day.


Turning first to dementia — organised by the Alzheimer’s Society. I am pleased that at CQC we are voicing our support for the week. Our publication Cracks in the Pathway last year highlighted the poor experience of care many people living with dementia have. We know there are great services — Vida Hall in Harrogate rated as Outstanding by our inspectors is one of them. But we also know that this is not always the case and we need to make sure that staff are supported to provide the care that people have every right to expect.

One way of doing that is by highlighting some of the support materials and good ideas that are available. As their former Chief Executive, I naturally turn to the Social Care Institute for Excellence and the wealth of resources they have about dementia. Skills for Care have also developed a range of materials to support the training and development of staff working with people who have dementia.

But lots of good ideas come from all sorts of other sources too. One of my top tips is Beth Britton’s D for Dementia Do Something New series for Dementia Awareness Week which has already featured mealtimes and pampering. I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.


Moving on to dying — like dementia, another subject that we shy away from and neglect. The Dying Matters Coalition, led by the National Council for Palliative Care, aims to raise public awareness of the importance of talking more openly about dying, death and bereavement and of making your wishes known. With the twitter hashtag #YODO — You Only Die Once — the focus for this week is on encouraging members of the public to take five simple steps to make their end of life experience better, both for them and for their loved ones. The five steps are:

  • Write your will
  • Record your funeral wishes
  • Plan your future care and support
  • Consider registering as an organ donor
  • Tell your loved ones your wishes

It all sounds quite simple but in reality we know it’s not. Conversations about death and dying are often difficult to have but essential if we are to experience the kind of death we want. Good end of life care is an important focus in the inspections CQC carries out. It is one of the core services that the Hospitals inspection team examine and where appropriate in adult social care services it is a key focus when we ask whether a service is caring.

Again, supporting staff to deliver the care and support people need at this most difficult time in their lives is crucial. SCIE and Skills for Care come up trumps again together with Dying Matters themselves among others.

Is a good death possible?

On Monday Dying Matters started the week with a debate asking “Is a good death possible?” An excellent panel of speakers Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England; Dr Katherine Sleeman, Clinical Lecturer in Palliative Medicine; Dr Margaret McCartney, GP; and Tim Lott, journalist answered yes but challenged us all to say whether it was probable and if not, how could we make it more likely.

Two key points emerged for me. The first from Katherine who basically said we were preaching to the converted:

The second was from Tim who suggested that we really need to think about how society as a whole talks about death and dying and not just confine the debate to health and social care professionals. He showed how it could be done by reading this article he wrote in 2013 about his father’s final moments. I know there are a lot of links in today’s blog, but if you only read one — make it this one!

Personal action plan

So what am I going to do to mark Dementia Awareness and Dying Matters Week? Maybe link the two themes? The Alzheimer’s Society is urging us to #DoSomethingNew while Dying Matters are asking us to #TalkPlanLive. So maybe I should for the first time ever seriously think about writing a funeral plan and a will? Wish me luck with that.

Originally published at

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